Trade, territory and treaties: Russia and Japan

Trade, territory and treaties: Russia and Japan

Saturday marks the first round of talks between Russia and Japan on joint economic activities in the long-disputed South Kuril

Photo: NASA

Photo: NASA

Saturday marks the first round of talks between Russia and Japan on joint economic activities in the long-disputed South Kuril Islands. An inability to resolve the WWII-era grievance prevented a peace treaty from ever being signed; technically the two are still at war.

Cooperation on a swathe of trade, healthcare and environmental projects will be discussed at Saturday’s meeting. While some progress is likely to be made on issues like improving medical access for remote communities, long-standing concerns – such as Russia’s militarisation of the islands – could hamstring proceedings.

Russia’s deployment of two anti-ship missile systems to the islands last November and the stationing of troops there in February have reignited Japan’s strategic concerns.

While relations between Tokyo and Moscow have warmed in recent times, Japan will push back against any further Russian military activity in the Kurils – particularly a proposal to establish a permanent naval base there. Saturday’s meeting is likely to be a step towards resolving the Kuril Islands dispute, but a formal peace treaty is not yet on the cards.