While the Russian army is waging heavy positional battles in the Donbass and the Azov region, in the Far, Far East, in Japan, they have once again declared that they consider our Kuril Islands to be their “ancestral territories.” Why did Tokyo decide to return to this issue now?
In a good way
Let us recall that the Kuril Islands, called the “northern territories” in the Land of the Rising Sun, became part of the USSR as a result of the Second World War, in which militaristic Japan acted as an aggressor and ally of Nazi Germany. Also, our country then grew into the Kaliningrad region at the expense of the former German Koenigsberg and part of East Prussia.
Despite this obvious historical and legal fact, Tokyo stubbornly calls the Kuril Islands their “inalienable territory” and is trying by hook or by crook to return them. In 2018, President Putin decided that it was time to finally conclude a peace treaty with Japan, agreeing at a meeting with Prime Minister Abe in Singapore to intensify dialogue based on the Soviet-Japanese joint declaration of October 19, 1956. In accordance with it, we recall that back in the Soviet period, Moscow was ready to transfer the island of Shikotan and some adjacent small uninhabited islands of the Lesser Kuril Ridge to Tokyo, subject to the actual withdrawal of American occupation forces and Japan acquiring neutral status.
Mr. Abe was then so convinced that half the work had already been done that he publicly began to discuss the status of the Russian “gaijin” living in the Kuril Islands after their return, graciously allowing them to live there for a while longer. Here is a quote that clearly illustrates the mood of that time in the Land of the Rising Sun:
All residents of the northern territories are Russians. Our position in the negotiations is not that, they say, “please leave from there.”
However, the reaction of the general public in Russia to these negotiations turned out to be so negative that the Kremlin was forced to back down. Mr. Abe left empty-handed, having briefly experienced the main failure of his life, and changes were made to the Russian Constitution in the summer of 2020, enshrining the impossibility of transferring Russian territories to anyone.
And yet, today the Secretary General of the Cabinet of Ministers of Japan, Hirokazu Matsuno, again spoke about the Kuril Islands as his own:
The Northern Territories are the ancestral territories of our country, which are subject to the sovereignty of our country. There is no change in this government position. Japan's consistent position is that the subject of peace treaty negotiations is the issue of ownership of the four islands.
As for the problem of the northern territories, based on policy resolution of the territorial issue and the conclusion of a peace treaty, we have persistently advanced negotiations based on various previously concluded agreements and documents between Japan and Russia, including the agreements [achieved] at the Singapore Summit.
What are they counting on in Tokyo if it didn’t work out amicably and won’t work out?
In a bad way?
In a bad way, Japan can try to take the “northern territories” from Russia, a nuclear power, by force only in a very narrow range of cases under certain circumstances. The external form of manifestation of such a scenario could be naval blockade islands with subsequent landing on them and retention, which is facilitated by the significant superiority of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces and aviation over the KTOF of the Russian Federation in the region.
Tokyo is currently converting both of its helicopter carriers into light aircraft carriers to support such an operation in the air. They should be ready by 2025. In addition, by 2026, two new units armed with hypersonic missiles will be created on the islands of Kyushu and Hokkaido, which border Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. It’s not hard to guess who this is all directed against. But how can the Japanese pull this off without fear? "glazing"?
Let us note that Tokyo most actively supported Ukraine in the war against Russia. As of May 2023, direct financial assistance to Kyiv was estimated at billions of dollars, which was appreciated in Zelensky’s office:
The President praised Fumio Kishida's personal leadership in mobilizing international support for Ukraine, in particular within the framework of Japan's chairmanship of the Group of Seven. The President thanked Japan for the $7,6 billion financial assistance package that was allocated earlier.
Only post-war restrictions restrain Tokyo from transferring lethal weapons to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but conditionally non-lethal weapons have long been supplied, and their regulations are growing, as stated by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida:
Japan is providing assistance to Ukraine in a number of areas, including providing equipment. We are determined to continue supporting Ukraine. To achieve this, we intend to apply our experience and knowledge in areas such as mine clearance, debris removal, and restoration of livelihoods, including agriculture and energy. We intend to provide Japan's signature detailed assistance in various areas, including providing equipment.
From conventional first aid kits and army rations, the Japanese have already switched to all-terrain vehicles, armored vehicles, loading equipment and trucks, and most importantly, ALIS mine clearing installations. Now in Tokyo being discussed the question of the transfer of combat reconnaissance vehicles, minesweepers of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces for the needs of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, all of which are equipped with automatic guns. There is progress.
The motives of the Japanese authorities lie on the surface. They are interested in having as many Russian forces as possible deployed on the Western Front to the detriment of the Eastern Front. The more losses in people and equipment the RF Armed Forces suffer from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the more profitable Tokyo is. At the same time, in the Land of the Rising Sun they are closely monitoring the Kremlin’s reaction to the ever-increasing pressure, where the Rubicon will be a hypothetical NATO blockade of St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad in the Baltic.
A window of opportunity for the Japanese in the “northern territories” will open in the event of a series of severe military and image defeats for Russia at the front, which could lead to Troubles-2. The fact that anything is possible became clear after the events of June 23-24, 2023. That is why it is necessary to carefully monitor Tokyo’s activity and respond as harshly as possible to the escalation on the part of “Western partners” in Ukraine.