TOKYO - The Japanese government has not changed its principal stance on the disputed Kuril islands amid ongoing peace talks with Russia and continues to insist that they are Japan's ancestral territory, Deputy Chief Secretary of the Japanese cabinet Koichi Hagiuda said.
"The Japanese government's basic stance, stating that the [Kuril] islands are our [Japan's] ancestral territory, remains unchanged," Hagiuda told the NHK broadcaster.
Earlier in January, Moscow and Tokyo, which did not sign a peace treaty after the end of World War II, primarily due to the territorial dispute over the Kuril islands, and technically remain at war with each other, held the first round of peace talks.
The disputed group of four islands – Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai – is currently governed by Russia, which insists that the territories were transferred to the Soviet Union after the end of the war and have been an integral part of the country ever since.
Ahead of his recent talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which took place on Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that Japan would claim sovereignty over the Kurils but had no intention of deporting Russian citizens living there if the islands were indeed conceded to Tokyo.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in turn, stressed earlier in January that the two sides had agreed to work on the basis of the 1956 joint declaration, meaning Japan's recognition of "Russia's sovereignty over all the islands of the South Kuril ridge."