March 1, 2001
Joint Compendium of Documents on the History of Territorial Issue between Japan and Russia
This compendium has been jointly prepared by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Japan and of the Russian Federation with the aim of helping the people of Japan and Russia to obtain an objective view of the "territorial issue" between Japan and Russia.
As a result of the Japanese advance from the South onto the Kurile Islands and the Russian advance from the North by the middle of the 19th century, a Japanese-Russian border emerged between the islands of Etorofu and Uruppu. This border was legally established by the Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation between Japan and Russia of February 7, 1855. The treaty peacefully established that the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai were Japanese territory, and that the islands to the north or Uruppu were Russian territory.
According to the Treaty for the Exchange of Sakhalin for the Kurile Islands of May 7, 1875, the islands from Uruppu to Shumush were peacefully ceded by Russia to Japan in exchange for the concession of Japanese rights to the island of Sakhalin.
With the signing of the Treaty on Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Russia on June 8, 1895, the Treaty of 1855 became invalid, but at the same time, the validity of the Treaty of 1875 was reaffirmed.
According to the Portsmouth Peace Treaty between Japan and Russia of September 5, 1905, Russia ceded that part of the island of Sakhalin south of the 50th parallel North to Japan. In light of Japanese and Russian documents from this period, it is obvious that from the time that Japanese-Russian diplomatic relations were established in 1855, the title to the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai was never held in doubt by Russia.
In the Convention on Fundamental Principles for Relations between Japan and the USSR of January 20, 1925 that announced the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union agreed that the Portsmouth Treaty of 1905 would remain in force.
The Joint Declaration of the US and the UK of August 14, 1941 (the Atlantic Charter), which the Soviet Union acceded to on September 24, 1941, stated that the US and Great Britain "seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other" and that "they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned."
The Cairo Declaration of the US, the UK and China of November 27, 1943, which the Soviet Union acceded to on August 8, 1945, stated that the "Allies covet no gains for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion". At the same time the Declaration stated that the Allies' goal was particularly to drive Japan from "the territories which she has taken by violence and greed."
The Yalta Agreement of the Three Great Powers (the USSR, the US and the UK) of February 11, 1945 stipulated as one of the conditions for the USSR's entry into the war against Japan: "the Kurile Islands shall be handed over to the Soviet Union." The Soviet Union maintained that the Yalta Agreement provided legal confirmation of the transfer of the Kurile Islands to the USSR, including the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai. Japan's position is that the Yalta Agreement is not the final determination on the territorial issue and that Japan, which is not party to this Agreement, is neigher legally nor politically bound by its provisions.
The Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, which the Soviet Union acceded to on August 8, 1945, stated that "the terms of the Cairo Declaration be carried out" and that "Japanese sovereignty be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as the Allies would determine." On August 15, 1945 Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and surrendered.
In the Neutrality Pact between Japan and the USSR of April 13, 1941, the parties had an obligation to mutually respect each other's territorial integrity and inviolability. The Pact also stated that it would remain in force for five years and that if neither of the contracting parties denounced it a year before its date of expiration, it be considered to be automatically extended for the next five years.
After the Soviet Union announced its intention to denounce the Japanese-Soviet Neutrality Pact on April 5, 1945, the Pact was to have become invalid on April 25, 1946. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 9, 1945.
From late August to early September 1945, the Soviet Union occupied the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai. After that, by the Decree of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet of February 2, 1946, these islands were incorporated into the then Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic.
The San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan of September 8, 1951 provides for Japan's renunciation of rights, titles and claims to the Kurile Islands and South Sakhalin. However, the Treaty did not determine, to which state these territories to belong. The Soviet Union did not sign this treaty.
The question of the limits of the Kurile Islands that were renounced by Japan in the San Francisco Peace Treaty, was mentioned, for example, in a statement by K. Nishimura, Director of the Treaties Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, in the Japanese Parliament on October 19, 1951, and in a statement by Mr. K. Morishita, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, in the Japanese Parliament on February 11, 1956, as well as in an Aide-Memoire from the Department of State of the US, which was one of the drafters of the Treaty, to the Government of Japan dated September 7, 1956.
As the Soviet Union did not sign the San Francisco Peace Treaty, separate negotiations on the conclusion of a peace treaty were conducted between Japan and the Soviet Union. However, because of differences in the positions of the two sides over the territorial clause of the treaty, an agreement was not reached.
An exchange of letters between Mr. S. Matsumoto, Plenipotentiary Representative of the Government of Japan, and Mr. A. A. Gromyko, USSR First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, on September 29, 1956, showed that the two sides agreed to continue negotiations on the conclusion of a peace treaty, which would also include the territorial issue, after the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. This exchange of letters also paved the way for the reestablishment of Japanese-Soviet diplomatic relations and the signing of a Joint Declaration by Japan and the USSR.
The Joint Declaration by Japan and the USSR of October 19, 1956 ended the state of war and reestablished diplomatic and consular relations between the two countries. In the Joint Declaration, Japan and the USSR agreed to continue negotiations on the conclusion of a peace treaty after the reestablishment of normal diplomatic relations, and the USSR also agreed to hand over the islands of Habomai and Shikotan to Japan after the signing of a peace treaty. The Joint Declaration by Japan and the USSR was ratified by the Japanese Parliament on December 5, 1956, and by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on December 8, 1956. Instruments of ratification were exchanged in Tokyo on December 12, 1956.
In 1960, in connection with the conclusion of the new Japanese-US Security Treaty, the Soviet Union stated that the return of the islands of Habomai and Shikotan to Japan would be conditional upon the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Japanese territory. In response, the Government of Japan raised the objection that the terms of the Joint Declaration between Japan and the USSR could not be changed unilaterally, because it was an international agreement that had been ratified by the Parliaments of both countries.
The Soviet side later asserted that the territorial issue in Japanese-Soviet relations had been resolved as a result of World War II and such an issue did not exist.
The Japanese-Soviet Joint Communiqué of October 10, 1973, issued at the conclusion of the summit in Moscow, noted that "the settlement of unresolved problems left over since World War II and the conclusion of a peace treaty will contribute to the establishment of truly good-neighborly and friendly relations between the two countries."
The Japanese-Soviet Joint Communiqué of April 18, 1991, issued at the conclusion of the summit in Tokyo, stated that both sides had conducted negotiations "on a whole range of issues pertaining to the preparation and the signing of a peace treaty between Japan and the USSR, including the problem of territorial demarcation, taking into consideration the positions of both sides on the issue as to where the islands of Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri and Etorofu belong." The Communiqué also stressed the importance of accelerating the work on the conclusion of a peace treaty.
After the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States in December 1991 and Japan's recognition of the Russian Federation as the state with the continuity from the USSR, the negotiations on a peace treaty which were conducted between Japan and the USSR, have been continuing between Japan and the Russian Federation.
Both sides are firmly committed to a common understanding of the need to resolve the territorial issue on the basis of "law and justice."
In November 1991 Mr. B. N. Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation, in his letter to the Russian people, indicated the need to reach a final postwar settlement in relations with Japan and noted that attention would be paid to the interests of the inhabitants of the said islands. The Government of Japan has also declared its intention to respect fully the human rights, interests and wishes of the Russians who now live on the islands, in the course of the resolution of the territorial issue.
This compendium, offered to readers of Japan and Russia, contains principal Japanese-Russian and Japanese-Soviet documents pertaining to the territorial demarcation between the two countries as well as a series of other documents and materials relevant to the given issue.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation