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  Wednesday, October 16, 2019
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Neither Russia nor Japan is likely to make concessions on four disputed Pacific islands any time soon
Neither Russia nor Japan is likely to make concessions on four disputed Pacific islands any time soon, a senior Russian diplomat said Tuesday. A 60-year-old dispute over the ownership of four Kuril Range islands, off Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, has prevented the two nations from signing a peace treaty that would formally end their World War II hostilities. Tokyo wants Moscow to cede control over the territories, disputing the legitimacy of their annexation by the Soviet Union in 1945. "The stumbling block [in efforts to settle the dispute] is the assessment of the consequences of WWII," said Vasily Saplin, deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Asian Department. "In my view, no concessions from either side are forthcoming." Saplin spoke at a panel discussion held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Joint Declaration, signed by Japan and the USSR on October 19, 1956, to reestablish diplomatic and consular relations. Panelist Anatoly Koshkin, of Russia's Oriental University, dismissed as unacceptable a so-called "arithmetic" solution to the Kuril dispute. He said the method was used to settle a conflict over Amur River isles claimed by Russia and China, and that it led to the partition of the disputed territories into two equal halves. "But the river islands in the Amur and the Kuril Islands are two different cases, and in this [latter] instance, an ["arithmetic"] solution would not bring parity." Since the introduction of economic zones in the 1970s, the dispute has no longer been just about land, but also about surrounding water areas stretching 20 miles offshore, Koshkin explained, adding that those areas are extremely rich in marine resources. Yoshitaka Akimoto, of the Japanese Ministry to Russia, said Japan sees the return of the four islands as an indispensable condition for the conclusion of a peace treaty. He said it is high time the two countries resolved their territorial dispute, which remains a source of mutual distrust.
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