Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 198

Local officials representing inhabitants of the south Kuril Islands–the four Russian islands claimed by Japan–criticized Moscow yesterday for delaying aid sent to the islands by Tokyo. Valentin Smorchkov, identified as the deputy mayor of the South Kuril district, was quoted by a Japanese agency as saying that Russian authorities had forced Japan to rewrite customs documents for the aid, thus delaying its arrival on the islands. The Japanese aid reportedly included badly needed power generators, food, liquefied gas cylinders, torches and candles. The islands have recently suffered power shortages, while some two weeks ago a fire gutted a power plant on Shikotan island, leaving more than 1,000 inhabitants without light and heat (Kyodo, October 26).

Yesterday’s protest to Moscow comes amid complaints that the Kremlin has failed to follow through on a promised aid package to the economically depressed islands. On September 29 another local government official from the Kuril Islands district warned that Moscow’s failure to provide the aid to the islands’ residents could generate “pro-Japanese feelings” on the islands (see the Monitor, September 30).

The latest developments on the Kurils come only days after Russian Foreign Ministry officials announced that Russia and Japan had made considerable progress in the drafting of a peace treaty to formally end World War II. According to a Russian Foreign Ministry official on October 23, Moscow forwarded the draft treaty on peace, friendship and cooperation to Tokyo in June. The draft was subsequently discussed in July and in September. The one section of the treaty which has apparently not been completed or discussed, according to the official, is the one that provides the greatest challenge to a full normalization of Japanese-Russian relations: the section dealing with the Kuril Islands territorial dispute. That problem is scheduled to be discussed during a visit to Moscow next month by Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi (Itar-Tass, Kyodo, October 23).