The Daily Manila Shimbun


Russia to promote disputed island development on Its own

August 24, 2017

MOSCOW- Russia will promote the development of four northwestern Pacific islands at the center of the long-standing territorial row with Japan whatever the progress of bilateral talks on proposed joint economic activities there, a minister in charge of the development of the Russian Far East region said in a recent interview with Jiji Press.

Russia cannot stop developing the islands, located off Japan's Hokkaido, the minister, Alexander Galushka, said.

The four islands, called the South Kuril Islands in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, were seized by Soviet troops at the end of World War II. The row over the islands--Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Haobomais--has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from concluding a peace treaty to formally end their wartime hostilities.

Before resolving the dispute to conclude a bilateral peace treaty, the Japanese government aims to conduct economic activities on the islands jointly with the Russian side under a special framework that will not undermine both countries' respective legal positions on them.

But on Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decision to designate the four islands as a special advance development area.

Japanese officials fear the unilateral designation may run counter to Japan's legal position, because it means Russian rules will be applied on the four islands. But Galushka suggested that there was no problem with Medvedev's move.

The Russian development initiative and the joint activity program will complement each other, he said.

Galushka said Moscow has been developing the islands under a plan through 2025 and found it necessary to push ahead with the socioeconomic development plan by turning them into a special zone where companies are given preferential treatment including tax incentives. Some Russian investors have already shown interest in the seafood processing business there, he added.

On the possibility of companies from third countries expanding to the four islands for the special zone privileges, Galushka said there is no legal restriction at present, although no such moves have been observed so far.

The Japanese government maintains the position that business activities by companies from third countries on the islands are unacceptable. Jiji Press