The Japanese government refused to accept the Russian protest regarding the southern Kuril Islands. This statement was made by the Secretary General of the Japanese government, Yoshihide Suga, in his commentary on the note of protest handed to Ambassador Toyohisa Kodzuki by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.

“Ambassador Kozuki once again outlined the position of our state and explained that such submissions from the Russian side are unacceptable,” said Yoshihide Suga.

Diplomatic rhetoric in relations between the two countries escalated after the visit of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to Iturup Island on August 2. During his trip, the head of the Russian government answered the question whether the protests of the Japanese side regarding the visits of Russian officials to the Kuril Islands are not worrying him.

“This is our land, this is a subject of the Russian Federation, these islands are part of the Sakhalin region. What are the reasons for our concern here? ”Said the Prime Minister.

Medvedev stressed that Russian officials have the right to visit any territory of their country without coordination even with the most friendly neighboring states. He stressed that the more trips to the Kuril Islands they will be indignant abroad, "the more likely there will be more reasons for representatives of the government of the Russian Federation to come here, which we will naturally deal with."

Japanese reaction

The visit of the head of the Russian government to the Kuril Islands was extremely negatively evaluated in Japan. Yoshihide Suga said the mere fact that the Russian Prime Minister visited Iturup “hurts the feelings of the Japanese people,” NHK television reported. The Secretary General of the Government of Japan also called unacceptable Russian military exercises in the Kuril Islands, which started on August 5.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
  • Reuters
  • © Issei Kato

It was in connection with this statement by Sugi that the head of the Japanese diplomatic mission was invited to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Toyohisa Kozuki explained that the comments of Japanese officials on Medvedev’s trip “border on an attempt to intervene in Russia's internal affairs,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a press release. The Russian Foreign Ministry put forward a counterclaim to the Japanese side: the Japanese side was pointed out the need for a conscientious approach to the formation of visa-free groups in the southern Kuril Islands.

According to experts, this may be due to the May 11 incident, when MP Hodaki Maruyama, during a trip to the Kuril Islands in the presence of journalists, asked the Japanese, who had previously lived in the southern Kuril Islands, if he agreed that he would return the “northern territory "is possible only by military means. He repeated the words about the war as a way of "returning" the Kuril ridge several times. Subsequently, the deputy refused his words, explaining that he had drunk too much at a banquet arranged for Japanese guests. Maruyama's behavior was condemned by a special resolution of the House of Representatives of the Japanese Parliament.

Experts call the sharp reaction of Japan to a visit by the Russian Prime Minister of Iturup Island to the expected, to some extent on duty, but at the same time related to the Japanese domestic political situation.

“The relations between our countries are quite good, they have been on the rise for quite some time. However, Japan had unreasonable illusions regarding the final resolution of the issue of a peace treaty with Russia. Now there was some disappointment, ”said Dmitry Streltsov, head of the Department of Oriental Studies at MGIMO, in an interview with RT.

Short-term problems

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo felt dissatisfied with his policy, Streltsov said. The coalition led by the head of the government won the July House of Councilors elections - the upper house of the Japanese parliament. However, contrary to opinion polls, she was unable to get two-thirds of the seats.

“During the election campaign, the Japanese prime minister was criticized because his efforts in the Russian direction were unsuccessful and did not end with anything,” the expert said.

  • Protesters demanding transfer of southern Kuril Islands to Japan
  • Reuters
  • © Issei Kato

According to the expert, some Japanese politicians have a desire to “make Russia a punching bag”, that is, earn political points due to criticism of the northern neighbor.

“Now that the cards have been opened and it has become clear that although bilateral negotiations on the peace treaty nominally continue to be conducted, no documents will be signed, the brakes and restrictions on the Kuril issue have been lifted. Therefore, the Kuril issue began to be used in domestic political interests, ”Streltsov believes.

In his opinion, Japanese politicians will continue to use anti-Russian rhetoric.

“Even Abe, who is pro-Russian, will not be able to reverse this trend. Especially now the opposition has revived. Abe’s policy in the Russian direction is seriously criticized, and he doesn’t even have anything to object to, there are no counterarguments, ”Streltsov is sure.

At the same time, experts believe that the decline in relations between the two countries will be short-term. In the long run, Japan is interested in cooperation with the Russian Federation.

Former Russian Ambassador to Tokyo, Alexander Panov, in an interview with RT, recalls that Abe Shinzo not only declares, but also demonstrates with real actions an interest in good relations with Moscow. So, as a result of negotiations between Japanese Prime Minister and Vladimir Putin in Osaka, an agreement was reached on Japanese investments worth $ 3 billion in gas development in Yamal. Not a single Western state offers anything of the kind, Panov notes.

“Japan most calmly and moderately reacted to all the events that“ spun ”the G7 countries in relation to Russia. Japan does not support Western anti-Russian sanctions. Moreover, contacts between the two countries are developing and maintaining in the defense sector, regular meetings of foreign ministers and defense ministers are taking place, which is rather difficult to imagine with other G7 countries, ”says Panov.

Japan is interested in long-term friendly relations with Russia, experts say. As Panov emphasizes, rapprochement with Moscow is also interesting for Tokyo because the Japanese are anxiously watching China's increased military capabilities. Therefore, Japan is interested in maintaining equal correct relations with another influential regional power - Russia.