Russian plans to establish an economic free trade zone on disputed islands near Japan, which was outlined by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mashustin in late July, signified with an angry response from Tokyo.
The Japanese side calls the disputed islands “Northern Territories” while the Russian side calls them “Kuril Islands”, and this is due to the conflict over these islands, which were controlled by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. Neither Russia nor Japan has signed any formal peace agreement on the islands.
Mishustin’s statements indicate that he was discussing an “unprecedented” set of economic measures aimed at stimulating the development of the islands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as they discussed a set of measures that can be taken in the Kuril Islands to make investment and economic activities more effective.
Announcing the plans for the free economic zone on the island of Iturup, he stated that no customs duties will be imposed and taxes will be reduced in the free economic zone. Also, ways to improve the energy supply to the islands through the LNG storage facility will be considered in addition to investments in wind and energy solar.
Noting the escalation of tensions, Mishustin’s visit to Iturup Island prompted the Japanese Foreign Ministry to summon the Russian ambassador to Japan, Mikhail Galusin, in protest. taken by Tokyo in recent days.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mishustin is visiting Russian regions “as he sees fit,” adding that “there is a political will on the part of Russia to develop good relations with Japan.”
The Kuril Islands are part of the volcanic “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean, stretching between the Japanese island of Hokkaido and Russia’s the Kamchatka Peninsula. Japan claims ownership of the southern islands including Iturup, Kunashir and Shikotan, as well as many uninhabited islands. While the current main economic activity on the islands is fishing, there is speculation that the islands contain oil and gas, and that they are strategically beneficial to Russia, which conducts military exercises there.