News

Koizumi-Putin Summit to Discuss Territorial Dispute

After attending the APEC leaders' summit in South Korea, Russia's president visits Japan. During his three-day stay, Vladimir Putin is to meet with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and other Japanese officials. The two leaders are not expected to take progress on a bitter territorial dispute.

For Russia and Japan, World War II has technically never ended. The two countries for 60 years have failed to sign a peace treaty because of their disagreement over ownership over four small islands in the north Pacific.

To the Russians, the disputed islands are the Kurils. The Japanese call them the Northern Territories.

Immediately after Japan surrendered in August 1945, the Soviet Army seized the islands, but Japan still claims them. Despite extensive negotiations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the two countries have not been able to resolve the territorial dispute.

Spokesman Tomohiko Taniguchi at the Japanese Foreign Ministry says Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, in a recent interview on Russian radio, cautioned against expecting significant progress on the issue during his meeting with Mr. Putin.

"He was not pessimistic. But he was not optimistic enough to envision that an easy solution will come out any time soon. And he reiterated that by solving the territorial issue both nations are going to be able to move on to the next step to have the peace treaty," said spokesman Taniguchi.

There is another party claiming the islands. They are the Ainu, an indigenous people who were ousted from the Kurils and surrounding areas over the centuries by Russians and Japanese. Most live on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.

The head of an Ainu organization, Tadashi Kato, says his group delivered petitions this month to the Russian and Japanese governments.

Mr. Kato say his group has repeatedly appealed to both governments and now they want Moscow and Tokyo to receive the same message - that the four islands "are neither Russian nor Japanese land." He says there is evidence in bilateral agreements over the centuries to back that claim.

Professor Kazuyoshi Ohtsuka, of Osaka Gakuin University, one of Japan's top experts on the Ainu, says the Japanese government was traditionally a proponent of Ainu fishing rights when it was in Tokyo's interest. But these days, he says, the Japanese government discriminates against the Ainu and does not recognize historical agreements granting them territorial rights.

Japanese officials are not sympathetic to the Ainu position.

"That is not the position of the Japanese government," says Foreign Ministry spokesman Tomohiko Taniguchi.

Russian media quote officials in Moscow as being equally dismissive of the Ainu claims.

Because the island dispute is seen as intractable, Mr. Putin is expected to spend most of his three days in Japan talking about other issues. High on the agenda will be the growing trade between the two countries, especially Japanese purchases of Russian oil and gas.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs