Nov 16, 2018 10:42 UTC
  • Japan PM assures Putin of no US bases on disputed islands if handed over

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reportedly assured Russian President Vladimir Putin that if the Kremlin hands over four disputed islands in the Western Pacific to Japan, they would not be subjected to a US military presence.

Abe and Putin agreed during a summit meeting in Singapore on Wednesday that they will accelerate peace treaty talks based on a 1956 joint declaration with the former Soviet Union in which Moscow pledged to hand over the two smaller of the four islands to Tokyo following a formal peace treaty between the two countries, Japanese media reported on Friday.

The disputed isles are known in Japan as the Northern Territories and referred to in Russia as the Southern Kuriles. They have strategic value for Moscow and guarantee Russian maritime access to the Western Pacific.

Japan has long insisted that its sovereignty over all four islands must be confirmed prior to the signing of a peace treaty with Russia.

However, any treaty involving transfer of sovereignty of the islands to Japan would also have to address how the US-Japan security treaty, which remains the core of Japan’s diplomacy, would affect the agreement and whether Washington would have the right to build military bases on the islands.

According to Japan’s Asahi newspaper, Abe assured Putin during the Singapore meeting that Washington would not erect military bases on the two smaller islands thereafter, further noting that the prime minister’s top security adviser had previously stated US bases on isles were a possibility.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga refused to comment on the report.

Earlier this month, the USS Reagan aircraft carrier took part in a joint military exercise with Japan, involving dozens of US and Japanese ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of military personnel.