Japan's island territory that the former Soviet Union occupied in 1945 and that Russia continues to occupy illegally today
Japan's Basic Position
The Northern Territories, consisting of the four islands of Etrofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and Habomai, are an inherent part of the territory of Japan, which have never been held by foreign countries.
The Northern Territories have been under illegal occupation by the Soviet Union, and then Russia, since the Soviet Union occupied them in 1945.
The Government of Japan has energetically been continuing negotiations with Russia based on its basic policy of resolving the issue of the attribution of the four Northern Islands and concluding a peace treaty with Russia.
In 1855, The Treaty of Commerce, Navigation and Delimitation between Japan and Russia confirmed the already established natural boundaries, drawing the boundary between the islands of Etorofu and Uruppu.
In the 1875, Treaty of Saint Petersburg Russia and Japan agreed that Japan would give up all rights to Sakhalin in exchange for Russia giving up all rights to the Kuril Islands in favor of Japan.
Nearing the end of the Second World War, the Soviet Union, in violation of Neutrality Pact that was still in force between Japan and the Soviet Union, opened the war with Japan.
Even after Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, Soviet forces continued their offensive against Japan and occupied all of the Four Northern Islands from 28 August 1945 to 5 September 1945.
Japan did renounce "all rights, title, and claim" to the Kuril Islands in the 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan, but the Northern Territories have never been part of the Kuril Islands. Furthermore, the Soviet Union refused to sign the Treaty.
On 19 October 1956, the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration which was signed in place of a peace treaty, stipulated the termination of the state of war and resumption of diplomatic relations. However, the peace treaty negotations is not concluded and the Northern Territories have been under illegal occupation by Russia.
Russia's assertions and Japan's refutations
Russia's assertion (1) Russia (and the former Soviet Union) asserts that, based on the Yalta Agreement in 1945, the Kuril Islands, including the Northern Territories, were handed over to the Soviet Union with the conclusion of World War II. ↓ Japan's refutation (1) The Northern Territories are not a part of the Kuril Islands, which Japan renounced under the Treaty of Peace with Japan, and, moreover, the Yalta Agreement was not the ultimate determination by the Allies regarding territorial issues. The United States, which signed the Yalta Agreement with the Soviet Union, has acknowledged that the agreement has no legal effect on the transfer of territory.
Russia's assertion (2) Russia asserts that, with the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, Japan accepts the return of two islands (Habomai Islands and Shikotan Island), not four islands, after the conclusion of a peace treaty. ↓ Japan's refutation (2) The Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration stipulates the end of the state of war between the countries and Russia has acknowledged the existence of a territorial dispute over the Northern Territories and has agreed to negotiate toward concluding a peace treaty.A cannery on Shibotsu Islet in the Habomai Islands (Photo provided by the League of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands)
An elementary school athletic meet in Shanamura Village on Etorofu (Iturup) Island (Photo provided by the League of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands)
Tomarimura Village, Kunashiri Island (Photo provided by the League of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands)
Workers drying codfish in the Shakotan Village are on Shikotan Island (Photo provided by the League of Residents of Chishima and Habomai Islands)