Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Need for Disclosure of Information Towards a Japan-Russia Peace Treaty
SHIMOTOMAI Nobuo / Professor at Hosei University

September 24, 2001
In spite of the considerable resolve that was demonstrated in efforts to settle problems rooted in the 20th century between Japan and Russia within that century, it was unfortunately not to be. Problems have been carried over into the new century, and the Irkutsk Meeting this March - which concluded the process that began with the Krasnoyarsk Meeting in 1997, upon reconsideration seems only to have taken us back to where we were in 1956, to the dilemmas that existed at the time of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration.

While a wide gap remains between Japan - which hopes to seize the opportunity to start serious negotiations on the title of the Four Islands, and the Russian administration of President Vladimir Putin - which behaves as though there was nothing more to discuss, relations between the two countries have ran around in circles, caught up in the fishing rights issue for Pacific saury. And as arguments centered on whether two or four islands should be returned have resurfaced in what could be described as a reversion to the past, any breakthrough remains out of reach, in part hampered by ongoing scandals at the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

To begin with, what is the essence of the peace treaty issue? Giving the Kurile Islands to the Russians had always been assumed to be the terms offered by the Americans to entice Stalin into entering the war against Japan.

Disclosure of Russian materials have prompted a review of Stalin's diplomacy and the Cold War, and half a century after the San Francisco Peace Treaty, documents have emerged showing the Soviet Union had actually taken the initiative in seeking control of the Kurile Islands.

Towards the end of 1941, two weeks after Japan and the United States went to war, the Soviet Union began drawing up a post-war global order led by itself, the United Kingdom and the United States, which had joined in alliance as a result of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time, Deputy Foreign Minister Solomon Lozovskii presented his plans for global order to Stalin, in which he stressed the need for redrawing Soviet borders, with special emphasis on changing the country's borders with Japan at the Kurile Islands and the Soya Strait (Istochnik, No.4, 1995).

In January 1944, his proposal was given concrete shape by pro-British Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Maisky, in a lengthy document entitled "Principles for the Future World" addressed to Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. And in this document also, the Kurile Islands - which "separates the Soviet Union from the Pacific Ocean" - were suggested as locations where the national borders of 1941 should be redrawn. It is interesting to note that while he was against going to war with Japan - whose defeat could be left to the U.K. and U.S. to bring about - he insisted that during peace negotiations the government must convince the allies and secure South Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands for the Soviet Union. This would have the Russians placing annexation of the Kurile Islands at the backbone of its post-war strategy from the very beginning. While only an internal document, it nevertheless provides important evidence that the Soviet leadership under Stalin had entertained such intentions from the start.

Was Stalin's policy towards Japan in fact diplomacy centered on an outright give-and-take of territories?

Now in the 21st century, it would be impossible for Japan and Russia to conclude a peace treaty and resolve outstanding issues without first dispelling misunderstandings on either side and creating a proper environment of public opinion. Foreign Ministries of both countries should lose no time in disclosing diplomatic documents that would shed light to the origin of this issue in their respective countries. Neither territorial mergers nor closed-door diplomacy that bear the hallmark of the 19th century will be tolerated. I believe the key to mutual understanding and resolution of the issue rests on this point.

The author is Professor at Hosei University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

下斗米伸夫 / 法政大学教授

2001年 9月 24日








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Need for Disclosure of Information Towards a Japan-Russia Peace Treaty