Japan reacted angrily on Tuesday after Russia withdrew from peace treaty talks with Japan and froze joint economic projects related to the disputed Kuril Islands because of sanctions imposed by Tokyo over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia and Japan have still not formally ended World War II hostilities because of the standoff over islands just off Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, known in Russia as the Kurils and in Japan as the Northern Territories. The islands were seized by the Soviets at the end of World War II.
“Under the current conditions Russia does not intend to continue negotiations with Japan on a peace treaty,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, citing Japan’s “openly unfriendly positions and attempts to damage the interests of our country.”
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he strongly opposed Russia’s decision, terming it “unfair” and “completely unacceptable.”
“This entire situation has been created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Russia’s response to push this onto Japan-Russia relations is extremely unfair and completely unacceptable,” he said, adding that Japan’s attitudes towards seeking a peace treaty were unchanged and it had protested the Russian move.
“Japan must resolutely continue to sanction Russia in cooperation with the rest of the world,” he added.
An aerial view of the contested islands known as the Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, on March 16.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Japan had lodged a protest with Russia’s ambassador in Tokyo.
In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan last week announced plans to revoke Russia’s most-favored nation trade status, expand the scope of asset freezes against Russian elites and ban imports of certain products.
When announcing the measures last week, Kishida said that Japan will also collaborate with international aid agencies to deliver food and medicine to Ukrainians. He added Japan had started accepting evacuees from Ukraine and called on the public’s support.
Last year, President Vladimir Putin said that both Tokyo and Moscow wanted good relations and called it absurd they had not reached a peace agreement.
Russia has also withdrawn from talks with Japan about joint business projects on the Kuril Islands and ended visa-free travel by Japanese citizens, the statement said.