TOKYO (AFP) – Japan is describing four islands whose ownership conflicts with Moscow as “illegally occupied by Russia” in the latest version of a diplomatic report released Friday, using stronger language to describe the territorial flap than other recent versions and emphasizing ties Cold between the two sides amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The description in the 2022 Diplomatic Blue Book, an annual report on Japan’s foreign policy issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, uses this wording for the first time in nearly two decades. Japan, which is struggling to improve relations with Moscow to regain control of the Kuril Islands, which Tokyo calls the Northern Territories, had previously described the dispute in a softer tone.
“The Northern Territories are a group of islands with sovereignty over Japan and an integral part of the territory of Japan, but they are currently illegally occupied by Russia,” the ministry said in the report.
The dispute over the Russian-controlled islands, which the former Soviet Union seized from Japan at the end of World War II, prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty officially ending the hostilities of war between them.
The report last used a similar term in 2003, but softened its wording until last year, when it called the dispute “the greatest concern between Japan and Russia” and noted that “Japan has sovereignty” over the islands.
In another territorial dispute, the ministry said the island that Japan calls Takeshima is “illegally occupied” by Seoul, which it calls Dokdo.
South Korea’s foreign ministry has protested Japan’s “repeated inclusion of unfair sovereignty claims over Dokdo,” describing the island as an inalienable part of South Korea’s territory. She said Tokyo’s repeated allegations “are in no way conducive to efforts to establish a future-oriented relationship between the two sides. Japan and South Korea relations have also been very strained due to historical issues.”
Japan joined other G7 nations in imposing a series of sanctions on Russia. Tokyo is playing a larger role in the international effort against Russia because of its concerns about the impact of the invasion in East Asia, where the Chinese military has become more assertive.
Japan has already faced retaliation from Russia, which recently announced the suspension of talks on a peace treaty with Tokyo that included negotiations over the disputed islands.
Japan is also seeking to bolster its defense capacity and budget as part of a major review of Japan’s National Security Strategy expected later this year.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.
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