For the first time since 2003, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has named the southern part of the Kuril Islands an illegally occupied territory, Voice of America reported on April 22.
This term is used in a new issue of the Blue Book on Diplomacy — the government's guide to the country's foreign policy, which the Japanese Foreign Ministry has published annually since 1957.
The updated version of the guide also included the statement that the is-lands are "an integral part of Japan." There has been no such description in the document since 2011.
In addition, the Japanese Foreign Ministry condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it "violence that undermines the foundations of the international order not only in Europe but also in Asia," and said that against this background it is challenging to talk about prospects for peace talks with Russia.
Since the end of World War II, Japan has claimed four southern islands of the Kuril Ridge: Iturup, Shikotan, Kunashir, and Habomai. The islands were annexed by the Soviet Union, and their Japanese residents expelled.
In 1956, Moscow and Tokyo signed a Joint Declaration to end the state of war between the two countries and restore diplomatic relations, but no peace treaty was concluded.
Until 2003, Japanese diplomacy officially called the islands "illegally occupied", and until 2012 "primordially Japanese". Since 2012, the government has avoided such wording, hoping to reach a compromise with Russia.
In early March, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi called these territories an "integral part of Japan" in a speech to parliament. He later said in a separate press conference that they were "illegally occupied."
After that, Moscow effectively ceased peace talks, meaning that Japan and Russia are still technically at war.