Russia Cancels Longstanding Agreement with Japan over Fishing

Dr. E.C. Beuck

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Tsukiji Fish Market, TokyoNetherzone on Wikimedia Commons

The foreign ministry of Russia recently announced that it would be suspending a 1998 agreement with Japan that allowed their fishermen to fish in the waters surrounding the disputed Southern Kuril Islands. They argued that Japan had failed to continue payments for a development project in Sakhalin. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno of Japan admitted that Japan had not, in fact, made that latest payment on the project that the Russian foreign ministry had mentioned as being in development in the Russian Far East.

The now suspended agreement on the waters surrounding the Russian occupied, and Japanese claimed, islands originally came about after a number of shootings and captures of fishing vessels in the area by Russian authorities. The agreement itself was set up in a way that would allow Japanese fishermen to fish for octopus, Atka mackerel, and other varieties of fish in exchange for payments to the Russian authorities. That being said, annual negotiations were held to adjust the amount of fish, operating conditions, and costs. In response to this suspension of the 1998 agreement, Japan has lodged an official protest.

Regarding the dispute itself, the core of the contention between Russia and Japan is tied up in how each state sees the islands of the archipelago. To Russia, the islands are in a strategic location separating the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean, while Japan holds that the islands belong to them originally, and it was only the seizure of each by the Soviets at the end of World War II that changed this.

Given that the agreement has been adhered to for decades up to this point, it is possible that the suspension of it by Russia is in response to Japan following NATO countries in imposing sanctions on Russia for their aggressive expansion of Ukraine, as well as subsequent military cooperation and joint military exercises between these forces in Asia. Should this be the case, the likelihood of the agreement being reimplemented between the two countries, which have still not formally ended hostilities dating from World War II, is low.

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Holding a PhD in Political Science, I write about current events and on political topics related to international relations, international law, conflict both between and within states, and the interactions between technology and politics.

Washington, DC
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