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PM Kishida describes islets disputed with Russia as Japan's 'inherent territory'

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers a question from the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan's legislator Hiroyuki Konishi in a House of Councillors Budget Committee session at the National Diet building in Tokyo on March 7, 2022. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described a chain of islets off the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido that have been long-disputed with Russia as Japan's "inherent territory" in a House of Councillors Budget Committee session on March 7.

    Japanese politicians have made efforts to avoid use of the term since November 2018, when then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed during a Japan-Russia summit to accelerate negotiations toward a peace treaty, to avoid a possible backlash from Russia. Kishida, however, returned to the original expression following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

    Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan legislator Hiroyuki Konishi pointed out that the Northern Territories had been described as "sovereign territory" since the time of the Abe administration and demanded Kishida change the expression. Kishida explained, "We have used the term 'sovereign territory' diplomatically." He added, "Both 'inherent territory' and 'sovereign territory' are our country's response."

    Kishida also mentioned possible additional sanctions on Russia, saying, "There remains a possibility of various sanctions." In a response to a question from Japan Innovation Party (Nippon Ishin) legislator Daisuke Katayama, he stated, "It's important to invoke effective sanctions while gauging the changing situation and communicating with international society."

    Separately on March 7, Konishi asked Kishida if he had indeed made a promise with Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, to unfreeze a "trigger clause" to partially cut gasoline taxes in April as a measure to reduce Japan's soaring prices at the pump, as the party claimed Kishida had done. The prime minister responded, "We will consider all options by assessing the efficacy of current measures if (fuel) prices soar further in the future and by examining what will be effective. That's all I have agreed (with Tamaki)."

    (Japanese original by Hiroyuki Tanaka, Political News Department)

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