Libmonster ID: JP-1414

As you know, on December 8, 1941, immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States and Great Britain declared war on Japan. The Soviet Union, according to the agreement signed with Japan in April 1941. It was not at war with the United States under the Neutrality Pact. However, then-US President Franklin Roosevelt and then-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in December 1941 appealed to Stalin to enter the war with Japan and thus abandon the policy of neutrality in relations with Tokyo. In August 1945, the Soviet Union entered the war with Japan, which was received with approval and enthusiasm by the leadership of the United States and Great Britain. In a special statement of the British Government of August 8, 1945, it was explicitly emphasized that the war declared by the USSR against Japan was proof of the solidarity existing between the Allies, and that it would bring the end of hostilities and the establishment of universal peace closer. Britain welcomed this" great decision " of the Soviet Union.

Moreover, as it later became known from declassified US archives, the administration of President F. D. Roosevelt developed a plan to divide Japan into four occupation zones - American, Soviet, British and Chinese. According to this plan, the Soviet Union was allocated a vast territory that included the island of Hokkaido and the north-east of Honshu Island. In addition, Roosevelt took into account that South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands previously belonged to Russia and at the end of the war, it can fully claim them. The validity of the decision to restore Russia's rights to South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands was also recognized by Churchill, who told I. V. Stalin that Great Britain would be happy to see Russian ships in the Pacific Ocean and approved of making up for the losses suffered by Russia in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905.

Being well informed about the position of the United States and Great Britain on the "Kuril problem", the Japanese authorities, as a state that signed the Act of Unconditional Surrender following World War II, did not officially raise the issue of presenting any territorial claims to the Soviet Union until the early 1950s. Based on the Yalta Agreements of the great Powers and the Potsdam Declaration, the border demarcation between the USSR and Japan in the area of the Kuril Islands was considered a settled issue. The new administration of US President Harry Truman did not object to this either. In the memorandum of the Commander-in-Chief of the allied forces, American General MacArthur, to the Imperial Government of Japan No. 677 of January 29, 1946, it was indicated that "the Kuril Islands (Tishima Ratto), the Habomai Group of Islands, and Shikotan Island"were excluded from the territory of Japan.

However, during the preparation of a separate peace treaty with the United States in the early 1950s, Japan received carte blanche from Washington to move the territory to the USSR.-

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In the context of the beginning of the Cold War, it became strategically unprofitable for the Americans to allow the final settlement of post-war Soviet-Japanese relations and the signing of a peace treaty. The Japanese authorities took advantage of this favorable circumstance and since then have not stopped their efforts to return the four islands of the Kuril Ridge to their jurisdiction. This raises the question of whether the position of the Japanese side is legally legitimate. The materials given below give a lot of reasons to doubt this.

The Foreign Policy Department of the State Archives of Australia (ACT) in Canberra holds copies of two documents of the Japanese Foreign Ministry dated November 1946 marked "secret", which shed light on the then position of its official circles in the interpretation of the concept of"Kuril Islands". These documents, in our opinion, seriously weaken the arguments of the Japanese side in its demands to Russia for the return of all four islands, as if they are not part of the Kuril Islands, but were ceded to the Soviet Union after the war1 .

Below is the title page of one of the above documents.

The content of this important document from a political point of view, which generally strengthens the position of the Russian side in the negotiation process with Japan on concluding a peace treaty and resolving the territorial issue in the national interests of Russia, is as follows.

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Fig. 1. Minor islands adjacent to Japan proper, 1946.

Shortly after Japan's surrender in World War II, the Japanese Foreign Ministry began preparing a series of documents for concluding a peace treaty. To this end, in November 1945, a special research department "Heiwa Mondai kenkyu Kanjikai" was created within its framework, which included employees of the Treaty Department "Jeyaku Kyoku" and the Department of Political Affairs "Seimu Kyoku". The materials prepared by this research unit of the Japanese Foreign Ministry were included in the special departmental collection of documents on the development of Japan's position in the negotiations on the conclusion of the peace treaty "Tainichi Heiwa Joyaku Kankei Kenkyu Kankei". The remaining materials of this collection were declassified only 30 years after its preparation, but the original materials concerning the territorial dispute with Russia were simply removed from the archive and probably destroyed (with the exception of two copies). The existence of these documents was later confirmed by the then head of the Treaty Department of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Nishimura Kumao .2

In May 1947, these materials were sent to the Australian Mission in Tokyo by the former head of the General Department of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Koichiro Asakai3 . The Japanese Foreign Ministry prepared these documents for the International Working Conference on a Peaceful Settlement with Japan, held in Canberra in August 1947. The documents were declassified only in 1994.

The surviving copies include two maps that make it clear that after the war, Japan claimed to retain its jurisdiction only over the Habomai Islands, and not over the four islands as they are today. And this is very different from her current position.

According to the materials of November 1946 (Fig. 1), it becomes obvious that Japan included in the concept of" Kuril Islands " all the islands of the Pacific Ocean from the tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula to the northern part of the island of Hokkaido, including Kunashir and Iturup, however, except for the group of Habomai and Shikotan islands. In Fig. 2 The Kuril Islands are divided into the Southern Kuril Islands, which include Kunashir and Iturup, and the Northern Kuril Islands, which are located north of Iturup. On this map, the island of Shikotan and the Habomai group of islands are colored in the same color as the territory of Japan proper, but Kunashir and Iturup are colored in a different color, which means that they are part of the Kuril Islands, which were ceded by the Yalta Agreement of the victorious countries in World War II in 1945 and by the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951 d. under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Union.

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Fig. 2. Minor islands adjacent to Japan proper: a historical map.

Based on these maps of the Japanese Foreign Ministry dated November 1946, it can be concluded that the official circles of the country included the islands of Kunashir and Iturup in the Kuril Islands, which were ceded to the Soviet Union after the war. This interpretation is fully supported by the text of Chapter 1 of the aforementioned document, entitled "The Kuril Islands - Tishima", which clearly states that the Kuril Islands include the Southern Kurils (Iturup and Kunashir) and the Northern Kurils - islands located north of Urup. To prove the uniformity of the Kuril Ridge, the following argument is given in this chapter: The Kuril Islands are geotectonically homogeneous, but differ in climate and flora and fauna.

Chapter 2, devoted to the description of the Habomai Islands and Shikotan Islands, also contains a number of" unfavorable " statements for the Japanese side. Thus, in particular, it is noted that in a number of Japanese historical documents, the above-mentioned islands were part of the Kuril Islands proper .4 In addition, it also emphasizes that the Northern Kuril Islands were administratively divided into two parts: Onekotan and the islands located to the south of it, which were called the Middle Kuril Islands. The southern Kuril Islands always included Kunashir, Iturup, and Sikotan, but did not include the Habomai Group 5 islands .

Thus, the current official position of Japan, which denies the entry of these two large islands into the Kuril Islands, contradicts the documents of the Japanese Foreign Ministry dated November 1946 and treats the concept of "Kuril Islands" as including Kunashir and Iturup. The Japanese side's demands for the return of these islands, which are not part of the Kuril Islands and thus are the territory of Japan proper, look incorrect in light of them. The fact that the Japanese side for half a century carefully concealed the documents of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the territorial issue of November 1946 indicates its lack of confidence in the validity of its positions in the negotiation process with Russia on the territorial issue.

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These documents confirm that the USSR scrupulously and consistently implemented the Yalta Agreements of the great Powers and the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty and subsequently did nothing that would contradict them and go beyond their scope.


1 Copies of the documents were kept in a sealed envelope and were not available for review until 1994. : Naga Kimie. New lights on the Russo-Japanese territorial dispute // Japan Forum. V. 8. N 1. March 1996. P. 88.

Kumao Nishimura. 2 Nihon gaikoshi: Sanfuranshisuko Heiwa jeyaku (History of Japanese Diplomacy: The San Francisco Peace Treaty). Tokyo, 1971. p. 24.

3 A telegram confirming the transfer of these materials from the Japanese Foreign Ministry to the Australian mission was sent to Canberra, which is noted in the materials of the State Archives of Australia. (Australian Archives ACT. File A-1838/2, 515/4).

4 Foreign Office. Japanese Government 1946. Minor Islands to Japan Proper: Part 1. The Kuril Islands, the Habo-mais and Shikotan, November 8. Australian Archives ACT: A-1838/2; 515/4.

5 Ibid. P. 9.


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L. G. ARESHIDZE, M. I. KRUPYANKO, OLD AND NEW FACTS ABOUT THE "KURIL PROBLEM" IN RUSSIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS // Tokyo: Japan (ELIB.JP). Updated: 30.06.2024. URL: (date of access: 19.07.2024).

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