[This unsigned article is reprinted from Peking Review, #7, Feb. 14, 1975, pp. 15-16.]
To make way for their military presence in the Pacific through the Sea of Japan and build up hegemony there, the Kremlin’s new tsars for many years have been trying by book or by crook to hold on to Japan’s northern territories which they occupy. Gromyko’s unbecoming conduct at the recent meeting of the Soviet and Japanese foreign ministers showed that the Soviet revisionists mean to stick to this policy.
Owing to the Soviet revisionists’ refusal to return to Japan its inalienable territories—occupied Habomai, Shikotan, Etorofu and Kunashiri Islands—the two countries have not concluded a peace treaty since the restoration of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tokyo in 1956. In his talks with Brezhnev during his October 1973 visit to the Soviet Union, the then Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka made the return of the four Japanese northern islands a sine qua non for the conclusion of a Soviet-Japanese peace treaty. A joint statement issued at the end of the talks declared to the effect that “the two sides agreed to continue the talks on signing a peace treaty between both countries in an appropriate period of 1974” and “settle various problems left unsolved since World War II.” To this end, Brezhnev promised a visit to Japan in that year by Soviet leaders. However, with a view to continuing its occupation of Japan’s northern territories, Moscow took advantage of Japan’s internal difficulties and called off the visit in an attempt to force Japan to fall in with its wishes. It reneged on the agreement reached at the Soviet-Japanese summit talks and even accused Japan of “trying to fan up chauvinistic sentiment over the ‘northern territorial issue’ and to divert the Japanese people’s attention from inflation and other domestic difficulties.”
Hence the mission of Japanese Foreign Minister Kiichi Miyazawa to Moscow in mid-January, which was to prompt the Soviet side to honour the Brezhnev-Tanaka agreement. According to a Kyodo News Agency report, Miyazawa had hoped that the communique on the talks between Japanese and Soviet foreign ministers would explicitly state that the outstanding problems between the two countries “include the northern territories.” But from the start the Kremlin chose to be tough in dealing with the Japanese Foreign Minister. In its report on Miyazawa’s arrived in Moscow, Izvestia said merely that he had come to “negotiate on economic and other problems.”
As disclosed in the Japanese press, the Soviet draft for the negotiations made no mention at all of the northern territories; when Myazawa brought the question up, Gromyko at once fiercely objected to introducing it on the ground that “the result of World War II cannot be changed.” As this conditioned reflex by the Soviet revisionist clique shows, it is inconceivable that it will give back the land of another country once it falls into its hands. This reminds us of the remark by Nicholas I, one of the old tsars, when he pointed to a map showing Russian occupied Chinese territory around Miaochieh (Nikolayevsk) at the mouth of the Heilung River: “The Russian flag should not be taken down wherever it is hoisted.”
However, Gromyko apparently failed to have his way despite his bullying. Miyazawa explained from the historical point of view that the four islands of Habomai, Shikotan, Etorofu and Kunashiri are inalienable Japanese territories, stressing the need for “the package return of the four islands.” When the Soviet revisionists found that getting tough did not work, they switched to stalling tactics. The Japanese press disclosed that in replying to Miyazawa’s demand, Gromyko even avoided using the word “territory,” craftily saying “that issue” just mentioned by the Japanese Foreign Minister should be “settled in a realistic way.” To this, Miyazawa retorted: “To be straight to the point, isn’t what you mean by ‘settled in a realistic way’ to preserve the status quo? With such a thing in mind, the conclusion of a peace treaty is out of the question.” “The package return of the four islands is the only prerequisite for the conclusion of a peace treaty, and on this basis alone can genuine friendly relations between Japan and the Soviet Union be built up.” Gromyko was tongue-tied by Miyazawa’s outspokenness. According to a Japanese newsman covering the talks, the Soviet Foreign Minister “merely kept repeating the words ‘settled in a realistic way.’”
Why does the Soviet Union, a country with a vast territory stretching across Europe and Asia, want to hold on to Japan’s four northern islands like grim death? To find the answer, one has to ao back to the old tsars’ strategy of military expansion to the sea in their wildly ambitious empire-building programme. A memorial by tsarist Russia’s naval command in November 1913 to the tsar said: “Generally speaking, the task of defending Russia’s waterways has always been threefold: to ensure Russia’s free passage from the Baltic to the Atlantic, from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific and from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.” Today, the new tsars have already set up military bases on Japan’s four northern islands which serve as important strategic points for the Soviet fleet’s passage from the Sea of Japan to the Pacific through the Soya and Tsugaru Straits to carry out military expansion in Asia. This explains why the Soviet revisionists will never agree to return the four islands. Moreover, foreign territory seized by the Soviet revisionists is not confined to Japan’s four northern islands; many territories of other countries in Asia and Europe are under their forcible occupation. They fear that return of Japan’s northern territories will cause a chain reaction in Europe and Asia, thus seriously affecting their strategy for world domination. This being the case, a Soviet embassy official in Tokyo once bluntly declared: “It is the Soviet stand regarding the territorial issue that the result of World War II is not to be changed, in the context of both Japan and other countries.” In other words, the Soviet revisionists are anxious about the outcome of any single change.
It can thus be seen that what Gromyko meant by “settled in a realistic way” with regard to the problem of Japan’s northern territories is “not to change the result of World War II” but to “preserve the status quo.” This in essence is the same as it has always asserted: “The territorial issue has been solved.” There may be modifications in wording and tactics, but the policy of achieving “in a realistic way” the “grand strategy” of the old and new tsars by continuing to occupy other countries’ territory remains unchanged. As the revolutionary teacher Marx pointed out in denouncing tsarist Russia’s ambition for world domination, “Its methods, its tactics, its manoeuvres may change, but the Polar Star of its policy—world domination—is a fixed star.”
(A commentary by Hsinhua Correspondent)
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