In contrast to the bitterness between China and Japan and South Korea and Japan, the issue of four islands north of Hokkaido, Japan’s northern island, lies quiet. Russia, then the Soviet Union, captured them at the end of World War II, but Japan still claims them. The US openly supports the Japanese claim.
There may have even been some movement toward resolving the dispute. At the meeting of APEC members in Vladivostok last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to visit Moscow at an unnamed date.
Putin, who wants to see Russia have more influence in Asia, told a press conference with Noda: “We are interested in developing relations with Japan and we want to conclude all the problems that we inherited from the past. We spoke about what we can do in the nearest future.”
Compared with what the Japanese have been hearing from the Chinese and Koreans, that must have sounded like a Tchaikovsky symphony.
Richard Halloran is a commentator in Hawaii.