Prime Minister's Address to the National Rally to Demand the Return of the Northern Territories
Thank you for the opportunity to address this year's National Rally to Demand the Return of the Northern Territories today.
Northern Territories Day, celebrated on February 7, was established in January 1981 by Cabinet approval to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Commerce, Navigation, and Delimitation between Japan and Russia on the same date in 1855, demarcating the border between Japan and Russia at a point between Etorofu Island and Uruppu Island.
The Government of Japan is greatly encouraged by the tremendous efforts being waged daily to realize the return of the Northern Territories by all of you gathered here today, including former island residents and activists in the movement demanding the return of the territories. I would like to express my deepest admiration for all of your extraordinary efforts.
For Japanese diplomacy, addressing the issue of the Northern Territories is an extremely important task. The visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Kunashiri Island in November 2010 is an unforgiveable and reckless act. At the APEC Leader's meeting held later that same month, I met with President Medvedev and lodged a strong protest against his visit. During our meeting, I confirmed with him the intention of furthering consultations, centered on our bilateral talks, aimed at resolving the territorial issue. At the same time we confirmed our intent to further consult on economic cooperation between Japan and Russia as well.
As Prime Minister, I continue to adhere to the fundamental policy of seeking to definitively resolve the Northern Territories dispute and conclude a peace treaty with Russia on the basis of past bilateral agreements and documents. Based on this firm resolve, I will tenaciously carry forward negotiations with Russia.
The issue of the Northern Territories is one that concerns Japanese people as a whole, and we must gather together all available information and wisdom to solve this issue.
For nearly 66 years the issue of the Northern Territories has remained unresolved. For the sake of the former residents of the islands, while the many in attendance here today have already reached quite an age, I will do my utmost so that you may see the return of the Northern Territories within your own lifetimes. On this day I have renewed my firm determination to see this through.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Seiji Maehara will visit Russia this month. With the backing of your strong support, he will engage vigorously in efforts to resolve this territorial dispute with Russia.
Let me conclude my remarks by expressing heartfelt desire that this nationwide movement calling for the return of the Northern Territories will gather even more strength and bolster the Japanese Government's negotiations with Russia.
February 7, 2011