Speaking at a press conference, Yoshimasa Hayashi responded to claims by his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov that Tokyo is refusing to recognize the results of the Second World War, when the Soviet Union took control of the Kuril Islands.
“Our sovereignty extends to the four Northern Islands,” Hayashi said. “We intend to continue persistent negotiations on the basis of our basic position, which is the desire to sign a peace treaty after the territorial issue is resolved.”
The Northern Islands is the name given by Japan to the four islands at the bottom of the Kuril chain. The landmasses, named Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai, were all part of Japan before World War Two.
After the conflict finished, the Soviet Union and Japan did not sign a peace treaty, with the dispute over their sovereignty being the main sticking point. The whole island chain has been in Moscow’s possession ever since.
The two nations have attempted to come to a solution over the islands for over half a century, but Russia has repeatedly stressed that its sovereignty over these territories is not up for debate.
Last year, newly inaugurated Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida repeated that Tokyo would not sign a peace treaty with Moscow until a solution is found.
In recent years, Russia has sought to fortify the Kurils, and late in 2021, deployed the Bastion missile system on the island of Matua. Once a large Japanese base, Matua is now the home to an around-the-clock Russian crew that will help control the Sea of Okhotsk, which is located between the island chain and mainland Russia.