The Japanese government is considering signing a post-war peace treaty with Russia without completely settling the ownership of four disputed islands, the Kyodo News agency reported Wednesday, citing unnamed government sources.
Tokyo is aiming to partially settle the territorial issue with Russia by initially handing Moscow ownership of two of the islands - Shikotan and the Habomai group - in the hope of making progress on the treaty during President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan in December, Kyodo said.
Shikotan and the Habomai group, however, account for only 7 per cent of all of the disputed islands in the Kuril archipelago, which Japan has previously sought to have returned.
The disputed islands, called Kurils in Russia and the Northern Islands in Japan, were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan's surrender at the end of World War II.
Russia has stood by the 1956 Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration, which states Moscow will hand over Shikotan and the Habomai group once a peace treaty is concluded.
The territorial dispute has prevented the two countries from concluding a World War II peace treaty and moving their relations forward.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe informed Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and other officials of the new approach in September, the report said.
"Russia thinks that they have fought Japan in the name of justice and proudly acquired the four islands. The victor nation will never alter its historical view," an unnamed Japanese government official told Kyodo.