In addition to the two Koreas, these powers are also technically at war

In addition to the two Koreas, these powers are also technically at war

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In July 1953, after three years of a bloody war on the Korean peninsula, North Korea and South Korea ceased fire and signed an armistice treaty.

But never a peace agreement was signed and both countries continue, technically, at war.

A few days ago Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, became the first president of his country who crossed south to meet with President Moon Jae-in and both declared “a new era” in their relations and indicated that they will work to sign peace.

The Koreas, however, are not the only countries where, despite the end of armed confrontations, an official state of peace has never been achieved.

Kuriles
Copyright of the image REUTERS
Image caption Some 12,000 people live in the Kurils according to the Russian government.

Russia and Japan also continue, technically at war.

The fight

The war began and continues to this day through islands located between the island of Hokkaido, in Japan, and the Kamchatka Peninsula, in eastern Russia.

A few days after Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, but before the peace agreements were signed, in August 1945, the then Soviet Union declared war on the Asian country.

Then the Soviet government invaded and annexed the Kuril Islands, called Northern Territories in Japan.

The Soviet Union did not sign the 1951 peace treaty between Japan and the Allies, but it did sign a joint declaration, in 1956, that put an end to hostilities and restore diplomatic relations with Japan.

The Kuriles, however, remain the main obstacle for both of them to sign a formal peace treaty.

Russia states that the sovereignty of the islands was recognized in the post-war agreements. But Japan says that the territories belong to it.

 

Abe
Copyright of the image GETTY IMAGES
Image caption The disputed islands are Kunashir (Kunashiri in Japanese), Iturup (Etorofu), Shikotan and the Habomai islets.

The disputed islands are the last four located in the south of a chain of islands.

They are Kunashir (Kunashiri in Japanese), Iturup (Etorofu), Shikotan and the Habomai islets, some of which are within a few kilometers of Hokkaido.

Around 12,000 people live on the islands, mainly dependent on fishing.

The conflict

When the Soviet Union invaded the islands in September 1945, it expelled thousands of families to the main Japanese territory.

Tokyo never agreed to cede the islands and so far both countries have not been able to reach an agreement on the sovereignty of the Kurils with which both can end the Second World War.

Since the end of the conflict there have been several attempts to map the future of the islands but none have managed to change their status quo.

At the Yalta Summit in 1945, the United States, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom agreed that the Soviet Union would keep all the Kurils.

 

Kuriles
Copyright of the image GETTY IMAGES
Image caption The islands, moreover, are located on valuable deposits of rare earths and hydrocarbons.

But in 1956, in a joint declaration with Japan, the Soviets agreed to hand over Shikotan and Habomai when a peace treaty was agreed upon. This was never achieved.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and in need of investment, Russia signed a similar joint declaration in 1993, laying the groundwork for negotiations to agree on a peace treaty. This did not go anywhere either.

The obstacles

Both Russian and Japanese nationalists have always opposed giving up the four disputed islands.

The Kurils are a crucial gateway to the Pacific for the armed forces of Russia, with which Moscow fears that one day Tokyo will extend its claims to the entire chain and leave them isolated.

The islands, moreover, are located on valuable deposits of rare earths and hydrocarbons.

In recent months there have been samples from Japan that could reconsider its position on the disputed territory and revive the so-called “two plus alpha” agreement.

This is the joint declaration of 1956 with which Japan would take possession of the smaller islands of Shikotan and Habomai and would also receive other concessions from Russia.

The agreements, however, continue to be evasive.

Putin and Abe
Copyright of the image GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Putin and Abe have held several meetings to discuss the sovereignty of the Kuril Islands but an agreement has yet to be reached.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has been one of the most frequent interlocutors of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and both take advantage of meeting at each Summit or event to which both attend.

Tokyo has even created a ministerial post whose mandate is negotiations with Russia.

Some progress has been made. In September 2017, Abe and Putin agreed to the approval of joint economic activities in the islands to undertake joint projects in aquaculture, sustainable agriculture, tourism, wind energy and waste reduction.

But a solution for the main issues about the sovereignty of these territories and the signing of peace between the two countries seems to continue as far as 70 years ago.

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