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2010年10月 2日 (土)

Russia on the prowl for northern territories

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 2, 2010)
Russia on the prowl for northern territories
中露共同声明 「領土」を意識した対日圧力(10月1日付・読売社説)

The recent joint statement issued by Russia and China appears to be an attempt by Moscow to discourage Japan from further advancing its territorial claims. Russia--a nation with which Japan has had a long-standing dispute over four Russian-held islands off eastern Hokkaido--has chosen to keep step with Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.

During talks in Beijing on Monday, the top Chinese and Russian leaders inked a joint statement marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The document stated that both the Soviet Union and China had fought "aggressors" in the war. It pointed the finger of blame at Japan and Germany, saying Russia and China would not "tolerate any attempts to rewrite the history of the great war and glorify the Nazis and militaristic elements."

It is extremely unusual for any nations to issue a joint statement on their historical perceptions of World War II, especially 65 years after hostilities ended.

The statement also said that "China highly esteems the Soviet Army's role in staging a war of liberation in China's northeastern region."

Living in the past

Why does China think so highly of the Soviet Union's unlawful invasion of such territories as Manchuria (currently northeastern China)--which was home to the puppet state established in the region by prewar Japan--after it revoked the Russo-Japanese Treaty of Neutrality to enter the war immediately before its end?

The statement also said the historical significance of engagement in World War II by China and the Soviet Union "cemented the foundation" of their current "strategic partnership for mutual cooperation."

The document makes no mention of the deep antagonism between the two countries from the 1960s to the '80s.

Russia had previously designated Sept. 2 as the date it would celebrate the end of the war. This date marks the Soviet "victory over Japan," given that our nation signed a document on its surrender to the Allied powers on Sept. 2, 1945. This appears to indicate that Russia's pride as a major power in the contemporary world is based on its status as a World War II victor.

There is no doubt that Russia's designation of Sept. 2 as the war-victory anniversary was intended to strongly deter Japan's demand for the return of the northern territories to Japanese rule.

Japan's protest justified

After his trip to China, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kamchatka in the Russian Far East.  メドべージェフ露大統領は今回の訪中後に、極東ロシア・カムチャツカ地方を訪問した。

Medvedev told reporters that the northern territories were "a very important part of our country. I'll visit them in the near future without fail." Medvedev's statement signified a strong desire to ensure that a Russian head of state visits the northern territories for the first time. No Soviet leader visited the territories.

This is another attempt by Russia to block Japanese moves to seek the reversion of the territories while also projecting Medvedev as "a strong leader."

Medvedev's remarks prompted Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara to immediately summon Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Bely to his ministry's head office, where he protested the China-Russia joint statement. "I have no choice but to question Russia's true motive [behind the statement]," Maehara reportedly told Bely.

Maehara also warned the Russian ambassador that a visit to the northern territories by Medvedev would "seriously hinder Japan-Russia relations." The foreign minister had every reason to send this message.

All indications are that Russia is attempting to pressure Japan, hoping to turn the situation in its favor. Moscow apparently senses that the Japan-U.S. alliance has been shaken since the Democratic Party of Japan came into power last year, while Tokyo's relations with Beijing are deteriorating. The administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan must turn around its approach to foreign relations as quickly as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 1, 2010)
(2010年10月1日01時28分  読売新聞)


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