Japan, Russia and the "northern territories" dispute : neighbors in search of a good fence
Morris, Gregory L.
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Russo-Japanese relations are held hostage by a group of four islands just north of Hokkaido. This thesis attempts to answer whether the dispute may be solved, and what is necessary for resolution. The argument is made that the islands have little strategic or material value of themselves, but symbolically they are of great value to both Russia and Japan. Public opinion and domestic politics in both countries drives the debate and is the reason for the stalemate, as there is almost no room for negotiators to work with. There is increased cooperation and better relations between Japan and Russia, and both countries recognize benefits that would come about if the territorial dispute was resolved. However, because the issue is swathed in pride and symbolism, resolution in the near term is unlikely unless an external stimulus provides an incentive to change the paradigm upon which Russo-Japanese relations are based.
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