The Kuril Islands, Russia’s Kurilskiy Ostrova, Japan’s Chishima-Retto, an archipelago in the Sakhalin region, far east of Russia, encompassing 750 miles from the southern end of the Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia) to the northeast corner of Hokkaido Island, Japan (750 km) from the Pacific Ocean with 56 small islands which cover 6,000 square miles (15,600 sq km). The archipelago was inhabited by Ainu, and currently, are settled by Russians and Japanese.
The Kuril Islands are strategically important for both Japan and Russia. Conflict over the islands has continued throughout history. Even in these areas, there is still some misunderstanding regarding the production and fishing of islands on the island. It is an obvious fact that Russia has a number of military bases on the islands and is trying to secure safe access to the Pacific Ocean. Russia has even begun several social and economic development programs that have been allocating about 70 billion rubles(around $ 1.1 billion) in the federal budget for the development of these regions since 2014 to provide its security in the region.
According to the Ministry of Economic Development of the Sakhalin region, in 2015, Russia has launched out a new federal target program “Socio-Economic Development of the Kuril Islands (Sakhalin Oblast) for 2016-2025 years” with total funding of 68.9 billion rubles. The main priority was given to the development of the transport system, infrastructure, and improvement of living conditions. Although the development plans seemed to be decisive, locals always complain that the program did not have yet an effect on unemployment, low wages and lack of roads in the region.Local residents say that while the salaries are low, living costs are high and they have to do some work to finish their jobs.
Gydrostroy is one of the main employers on the Kuril islands. Locals built a hospital, a kindergarten, and an airport in Kurilsk several years ago. However, most locals point out that finding a job is difficult, salaries are not competitive, and most of their jobs are taken by migrant workers in the region. The island is rich in terms of natural resources, including the unique rhenium resources of the Kudryavyi volcano, but the main income comes from the fishing industry and the production of fish rye. The fish products of the island exported to Russia is quite popular in the country.
The Kuril Islands were annexed by the Soviet Union following the landing operation in the Kuril Islands at the end of World War II. The territorial dispute prevents Russia and Japan from signing an official peace treaty. Japan claims four islands: Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashir, and Iturup. According to the report given by the Russian leader Vladimir Putin to Bloomberg, Russia does not want to have trade-in territories. Many policy analysts do believe that Russia will never abandon the island in exchange for greater economic cooperation. Based on the opinion of Tamerlan Abdikeev, the founder of Tokyo-based INVERO Advisors, there are several problematic issues with the deployment of whether Russian or U.S military bases in Japan if Japan acquires one of the islands, which would not necessarily be accepted by the Russian side. He also added that economic cooperation between Japan and Russia will not be boosted upwithout taking clear-cut decisions concerning the resolution of the Kuril Islands. Therefore, it is difficult to expect mutual trust without signing an effective peace contract between the two countries.Even keeping the “status quo” between the two countries means there is little chance of change in the region. The “status quo” condition does not mean that the two parties could achieve something significant in this matter.Russia in the example of Kuril islands does not have the mind to give up the islands, as it wants those islands as the main trade and geostrategic zone of the country.
In the coming future, Russia is planning to place additional missile systems from the Hokkaido region to the two islands north of the Kuril Islands chain to strengthen its defense capabilities in the region. This plan shows Russia’s strategic importance to the Kuril Islands for the protection of the Achat Sea and nuclear forces against the United States. Russia opposes the deployment of US missile forces in the Asia-Pacific region. As the Japanese government official pointed out, while Russia has strongly criticized the United States for building a missile defense network, but they are steadily strengthening their own defense systems in the region.
In November 2016, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the first time hosted Vladimir Putin during his first official visit to G-7 country concerning achieving breakthrough over the territory of Japan’s northern coast. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.The four islands are known as the South Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan and have been controversial for more than seventy years. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the Northern Territory consists of four islands on the northeast coast of the Hokkaido and Nemuro peninsula. These are Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri, and Etorofu. The northern territory is not included in the Kuril Islands.
The consistent position of Japan in this conflict is that the Northern Territories, Takeshima, and Senkaku islands are the inherent part of Japan-based on historical facts and international law that illegally annexed by Russia. (See Annexes 30 and 31 below)
In conclusion, it should be noted that Russia prefers political principles rather than legal principles in resolving territorial disputes with Japan. Russia does think that if one of those islands is handed over to Japan, the security of Russia on the American side may be in doubt. Japan, on the other hand, believes that it is more important for him to ensure territorial integrity and to work in accordance with the legal principles than political issues. Whenever the parties come together for a peace agreement, the issue remains stable and no small change is apparent. Thus, the outcome of the negotiations between the parties remains numb.