Photo/IllutrationRussian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin gives a lecture in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on March 27. (Ryo Kiyomiya)

Mikhail Galuzin, Russia’s ambassador to Japan, said disputed islands cannot be bought through investments, and that Japanese textbooks’ descriptions of the isles send a “wrong signal” for peace treaty talks between the two countries.

“We will not hand over islands in exchange for investments from Japan,” he said during a lecture in Tokyo on March 27, reiterating Moscow’s stance toward negotiations. “We are not taking an approach like barter trading.”

Galuzin stressed the importance of first concluding a peace treaty to formally resolve wartime hostilities based on the 1956 Joint Declaration.

“It has to be a treaty aimed at building good neighborly relations and partnerships, a pact broader than the one that should have been concluded in the immediate aftermath of the end of World War II,” the ambassador said.

The 1956 declaration states that two of the four disputed islands off northeastern Hokkaido, called the Northern Territories in Japan, will be returned to Japan as an initial step after a peace treaty has been signed.

The two islands are Habomai and Shikotan.

Soviet forces seized the four islands, called the Southern Kurils in Russia, around the end of World War II.

Galuzin also called on the Japanese government to acknowledge that the four islands became Moscow’s possession as a result of World War II and to ease Russian concerns that U.S. military forces could be deployed on the two islands upon their return to Japan.

The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the related Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) can be interpreted to say that the United States can seek to establish military bases anywhere in Japanese territory.

In an effort to move the negotiations forward, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stopped the longtime practice of calling the four islands an “inherent part of the territory of Japan.”

However, Galuzin, noting recent textbook screening results in Japan, criticized Tokyo for retaining the “inherent part of the territory” expression in elementary school textbooks that will be used from fiscal 2020.

“It is sending a wrong signal,” he said.

The ambassador said that even if Japanese officials do not use that description in public, Tokyo cannot claim that it has changed its position if the expression is used in textbooks for Japanese children.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga dismissed Galuzin’s criticism the same day and defended the government’s longstanding position on the Northern Territories.

“The screening process was conducted appropriately,” he said at a news conference. “The government’s legal position on the issue concerning the Northern Territories remains unchanged, and this is not a case of us sending a wrong signal.”