Friday, November 29, 2013
Island Disputes Part III: The Northern Territories
Later, in 1941, the Empire of Japan and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact in which both promised to respect the territorial borders of the other and to take no part in any conflict that involved Japan or the Soviet Union with a third power. It was signed in April of 1941 and was stipulated to be valid for five years, so it would not have expired until April of 1946. The Empire of Japan was scrupulously faithful to this agreement and this is why, for example, when her fellow Axis partners Germany and Italy invaded the Soviet Union only a couple of months later, Japan took no part. The only mistake Japan made was in assuming that communists ever keep their word or honor their agreements. In spite of the non-aggression pact, the Soviet Union agreed with Britain and America to go to war with Japan after Germany was defeated in Europe. Of course, because communists are as cowardly as they are untrustworthy, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin waited until after the war had already effectively been won and after America had dropped one atomic bomb on Japan and one day before they dropped the second, to suddenly stab the Japanese in the back and invade the pro-Japanese Empire of Manchukuo. They grabbed everything of military or industrial value, looting basically the entire infrastructure set up by Japan before going on to loot, rape and murder the Manchu populace. Three days after Japan surrendered to the Allies, Soviet forces also moved in to invade and occupy the Kuril Islands.
When the official treaty ending the war between Japan and the Allies was signed, the Treaty of San Francisco, the Soviet Union refused to sign on, in part because the treaty did not recognize the Soviet right to the islands they had occupied. In 1956 a Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration was signed to end the state of war between these two countries prior to a permanent peace treaty, a peace treaty which has still not been agreed to. In the declaration the Soviets agreed to return the Habomai and Shikotan Islands to Japan to be carried out after a permanent peace treaty was signed but that has never happened. More might have been done at the time but the United States objected in 1956 and to this day Japan and Russia have not agreed on who should control which islands. Today Russia still claims that even the islands of Etorofu and Kunashiri are part of the Kurils and thus Russian territory in spite of the fact that, as mentioned at the beginning, the Russian Empire never claimed these islands and in their original treaty with Japan in 1855 recognized them as Japanese territory. The fact should also be reiterated that the entire Kuril island chain was not gained by Japan by violence but by peaceful territorial exchange and Japan does not claim all of these islands or the southern half of Sakhalin that was lost to the Soviets after World War II. All Japan claims is those islands which had been recognized as Japanese territory by Russia from the very beginning.