In news- In its 2022 Diplomatic Bluebook, Japan has said that Russia has illegally occupied four of its islands near the Kamchatka Peninsula. The Japanese have called these islands – the Northern Territories, while Russia calls them the Kurils.
About Kuril islands-
- The chain of islands extends for 1,200 km from the southern tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia) to the northeastern corner of Hokkaido island (Japan) and separates the Sea of Okhotsk from the Pacific Ocean.
- The chain is part of the belt of geologic instability circling the Pacific and contains at least 100 volcanoes, of which 35 are still active, and many hot springs.
- Parallel to the chain, in the Pacific floor, is the Kuril Trench, which reaches a depth of more than 6.5 miles (10.5 km).
- The climate in the islands is severe, with long, cold, snowy winters and cool, wet, foggy summers.
- Vegetation ranges from tundra on the northern islands to dense forest on the larger southern islands.
- The average annual precipitation is 30–40 inches , most of which falls as snow.
- The Kurils were originally inhabited by the Ainu, and they were later settled by the Russians and Japanese, following several waves of exploration in the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Apart from being home to rich fishing grounds, the islands are significant from a strategic perspective as it is here that a large chunk of Russia’s pacific fleet is docked.
Timeline of agreement between Russia & Japan over these islands-
- In 1855 Japan and Russia concluded the Treaty of Shimoda, which gave control of the four southernmost islands to Japan and the remainder of the chain to Russia.
- In the Treaty of Saint Petersburg, signed by those two countries in 1875, Russia ceded possession of the Kurils to Japan in exchange for uncontested control of Sakhalin Island.
- In 1945, as part of the Yalta agreements (formalised in the 1951 Treaty of Peace with Japan), the islands were ceded to the Soviet Union, and the Japanese population was repatriated and replaced by Soviets.
- Japan still claims historical rights to the southernmost islands and has tried repeatedly to persuade Russia to return those islands to Japanese sovereignty.