The Yomiuri ShimbunGovernment officials and former residents of the northern territories held various events around the nation calling for the islands’ return on Thursday, which was Northern Territories Day.
The northern territories consist of the islands of Shikotan, Kunashiri and Etorofu, and the Habomai group of islets.
In the town of Rausu, Hokkaido, about 30 people yelled, “Islands, come back” toward Kunashiri on the opposite shore. Also on the day, a national rally to demand the transfer of the territories, organized by the Cabinet Office and an organization of former residents and other bodies, was held at the National Theater in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.
“It’s not easy to resolve problems that have remained for more than 73 years after World War II. But we have to achieve a solution,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the event.
“We will resolve the issue of the territories and conclude a peace treaty with Russia” as a basic policy of the government, Abe added. The prime minister did not mention the “return of the four islands” in his speech, in an apparent move not to irritate Russia.
At past events, including one last year, the prime minister had made such statements as, “We will resolve the issue of the return of the four islands and the conclusion of a peace treaty with Russia.”
Northern Territories Day was designated by the government in 1981, based on the 1855 Japan-Russia Treaty of Commerce and Navigation that stipulated a national border between the two countries between Etorofu and Urup Island. The treaty was signed on Feb. 7, 1855.