Did you know World War II never formally ended?
Since early 2016 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged talks with Russia so that the two nations could finally sign a peace treaty, 71 years after WWII took place. If all goes as planned in the two-day summit that started today in Japan they would formally settle World War II.
Even if the fighting ended in 1945 wars leave a lot of paperwork behind. In the pacific theater the treaty of peace with Japan or the Treaty of San Francisco was signed until 1951 but it didn’t include the Soviet Union because they occupied the Kuril Islands, a string of islands that run within miles of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and were seized by the Red Army in the last days of the war.
Negotiations between Japanese and Soviets dragged on until October 19, 1956 but even then they only ended the state of war, rather than declaring the two countries to be in a state of peace.
For the Japanese Prime Minister, this summit will be both personal and strategic. He has invested many political capital and personal time in building rapport with Putin. They’ve hold more than a dozen meeting since he took office some four years ago and his foreign and economic ministers have been laying the groundwork for the summit, making a final visit to Russia this past weekend, reported Foreign Policy.
Reportedly, this would also fulfill the dream of Abe’s father, Shirato Abe, a leading conservative politician. When he was foreign minister in the 1980’s he spent years forging ties with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorvachev in hopes that a peace deal would make him prime minister.
“His son also wants to drive a geopolitical wedge between Russia and China and assert Japan’s ability to forge its own foreign policy beyond the boundaries of the alliance with the United States,” reads Foreign Policy’s article. Also Putin hopes to get Japan to break ranks with West’s post-Crimea sanctions regime and attract a flow of Japanese investment.
According to CNN analysts say negotiations over the islands “fit into Putin's strategy in Asia, which is to exploit small fractures in alliances to roil the waters just enough that Russia gains diplomatic and economic advantages without giving up anything concrete.”
"The Russian side is using the islands as a diplomatic ploy. They don't have any intention of settling the islands issue," said James Brown, an associate professor of political science at Temple University in Tokyo.
US Diplomat, William Courtney, believes “Russia hopes to weaken support for US military basing and deployments, and to undermine public support in Japan for increasing military preparedness," as he told CNN.
Both leaders met today and agreed to revive security talks and discuss economic cooperation regarding the islands. They also talked about Syria, reported Reuters.
"We were able to hold the summit in a very good atmosphere," Abe told reporters after the meeting.
“I think we were able to have frank and deep discussions about free travel by former island residents, economic activities on the four islands under a special system of both countries, and the peace treaty issue."
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