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Grigory Pasko: Obstacle cliffs

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I don’t have the slightest grounds to love Tokyo. That’s certain courts that for some reason liked a story concocted by the FSB about how I – am a Japanese spy. But the Japanese officially repudiated all court decisions relative to me and my involvement with the intelligence services of the Land of the Rising Sun. The last Japanese person with whom I interacted, some 7 years ago, was a journalist from some kind of information agency. In so doing, I had such an impression that he was more afraid of meeting with me than of a kamikaze death.

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The Japanese are weak-hearted in general. (Just please don’t call it cautiousness). Rousing respect all the more then is their obstinate position in relation to the Kurile Islands. As a pragmatic (and weak-hearted) people, they understand well: it is better to be friendly with your neighbors. And especially with such a big neighbor as Russia.

But they aren’t friendly with us. Yes, they do participate in some kind of joint projects on trifling matters. But even in something as important – for them too! – as the dismantling of atomic submarines on the Pacific Ocean Fleet, they practically don’t participate at all.
They don’t like us. Which is why they definitively confirmed a document insisting that the Southern Kuriles are “unlawfully occupied by the Russian Federation”.

Now I shall repeat: I don’t like official Tokyo. But in the given situation it, with all likelihood, is right: the four islands of the Kurile chain – are unconditionally their islands. From the point of view of international law, our country is indeed «unlawfully occupying» them. And, it seems, on this point of view they are going to take this point of view for a long time to come still.

Indeed, they’re sticking to this point of view for so long because behind them – they’ve got historical and legal rightness. Not from all sides irreproachable and washed of inflows of different events, opinions, treatments, secondary documents… But in the main thing they’re right: the four islands of the Southern Kuriles – Iturup [Etorofu in Japanese–Trans.], Kunashir, Shikotan and the Habomai group of uninhabited islands – are Japanese.

Now in the mass information media they’re writing like this about the problem of the islands: Moscow and Tokyo since the year 1945 can not sign a peace treaty because of the dispute about the ownership of the southern part of the Kurile Islands, which after the end of the Second World War went off to the USSR in accordance with international understandings.

(They “went off” the same way as everything goes off after wars: the victor takes either everything, or the lion’s share of everything, not concerned in the least about the legal purity of the «transaction»).

Further. One could think that until the year 1945 neither the islands nor history had existed.

And yet there were other dates too.

In the “Vast land-description of the Russian state” of the year 1787 was cited a list of twenty one islands of the Kurile chain, belonging to Russia. The southern islands, controlled by Japan (those very same ones to which Japan is laying claim now) did not enter into there.

In the year 1855, Russia and Japan signed an agreement about the demarcation of the chain, according to which the border was drawn between the islands of Iturup and Urup. Sakhalin Island remained in joint tenure until the year 1875, when the parties signed the St. Petersburg treaty, within the framework of which Japan renounced its claims on Sakhalin in exchange for Russia’s renunciation of all the islands to the north of Urup. That is, the islands to which Japan is laying claim today did not belong to Russia. The rest of the islands, the tsarist government renounced in exchange for Sakhalin, and, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it can be said that this was a much more advantageous deal than the sale of Alaska to the Americans. (All these data are accessible in the internet network to anybody).

The decision of the Japanese – is intelligible and distinct . I think that to adopt it was for them not easy. Because on the Kuriles – are the graves of the ancestors of many Japanese. I know what ancestors’ graves mean to the Japanese, and not through hearsay. In my time I travelled throughout half of Japan, when I was gathering material for a book about the burials of Russia military sailors in Japan. I saw well-tended – by the Japanese! – cemeteries of Russian sailors. And the Japanese wondered: why aren’t you, Russians, coming to the graves? This is important! (If only they knew! – we oftentimes don’t concern ourselves about the living, let alone – the dead…).

A note of protest from the MFA RF isn’t going to help anything here. The computer, as they say, has frozen up. A “reset” is for now impossible. What’s needed is to dig around in documents, attentively read and analyze them, and find a mutually beneficial solution.

After all, Putin did find a way out in the dispute relative to the islands near Khabarovsk, having transferred them – quietly, without noise or dust, without a nationwide discussion and coordination with the State Duma – to the Chinese. And nothing happened!

Nobody died; everybody’s happy.

Especially the Chinese.