Japan challenges Russia over suspension of agreement allowing Japan to fish in southern Kuril Islands

Japan on Wednesday criticized Russia’s announcement suspending a deal that allows the Japanese to fish in waters near the disputed southern Kuril Islands, as relations between the countries deteriorate over the war in Ukraine.

“In the current situation, we are forced to suspend the implementation of the 1998 agreement until the Japanese side fulfills all its financial obligations,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. , in a press release.

The fisheries agreement has been in place since 1998, allowing Japanese fishing boats to operate around the Russian-controlled Kuril Islands, which Japan claims and also calls the Northern Territories, in exchange for payment from Japan based on the quota of catch and other conditions negotiated each year.

A territorial dispute over the islands, known in Russia as the Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories, dates back to the end of World War II when Soviet troops seized them from Japan. The feud prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty.

Its suspension, apparently in response to Japan’s sanctions against Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, raises concerns about the safety of Japanese fishing boats in the region. Prior to the deal, Russian authorities had seized and fired on Japanese boats.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said it was “regrettable that Russia unilaterally announced the suspension of cooperation in this manner”. He criticized Moscow for blaming Japan’s failure to fund independent development projects on Sakhalin, Russia’s largest island in the Pacific.

Matsuno said Tokyo will continue negotiations to ensure the safe operation of Japanese boats under the pact.
“We will do everything possible to protect the safety of the Japanese fishing operation,” he said.
The region is a rich fishing area for pollack, Okhotsk mackerel and octopus.

The territorial dispute prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty officially ending World War II. Russia has already abandoned negotiations for a peace treaty with Japan in response to the sanctions.

Matsuno criticized Moscow for linking Japan’s failure to fund development projects on Sakhalin, which is not part of Tokyo’s claimed territory, to the fisheries deal, “as if Sakhalin’s projects were conditional on the ‘Fisheries Safety Agreement’.

Japan has provided development funds to Sakhalin for years as part of its efforts to improve relations with Russia. Matsuno acknowledged that Tokyo had not provided its final payment for Sakhalin’s projects, but it was not immediately clear whether it was related to the sanctions.

Japan quickly joined the United States and Europe in imposing sanctions on Russia and providing support for Ukraine. He fears that the crisis will further encourage China to increase its assertiveness in the region.

[With inputs from agencies]


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