Soviet–Japanese Joint Declaration of 1956

The Soviet Union did not sign the Treaty of Peace with Japan in 1951. On October 19, 1956, Japan and the Soviet Union signed a Joint Declaration providing for the end of the state of war and for the restoration of diplomatic relations between both countries.[2][3] They also agreed to continue negotiations for a peace treaty. In addition, the Soviet Union pledged to support Japan for UN membership and to waive all World War II reparations claims. The joint declaration was accompanied by a trade protocol, which granted reciprocal most favored nation status and provided for the development of trade. Japan derived few apparent gains from the normalization of diplomatic relations. The second half of the 1950s saw an increase in cultural exchanges.

Joint Declaration between Japan and the Soviet Union
Japan-Soviet joint declaration
Japan-Soviet diplomatic joint declaration
ContextDeclaration of the end of the war between Japan and Soviet Union, Declaration of peace and friendly relations between the two countries
SignedOctober 19, 1956
LocationMoscow, Soviet Union
EffectiveDecember 12, 1956
LanguageJapanese and Russian[1]
Full text
ru:Советско-японская_декларация_1956_года at Wikisource

Territorial provisionsEdit

The Joint Declaration provided in Article 9 for the continuation of negotiations for the conclusion of a peace treaty after the restoration of diplomatic relations between the countries and further stipulated that "in this connexion, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, desiring to meet the wishes of Japan and taking into consideration the interests of the Japanese State, agrees to transfer to Japan the Habomai Islands and the island of Shikoton [sic], the actual transfer of these islands to Japan to take place after the conclusion of a Peace Treaty between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Japan."[2][4] At the time, the United States threatened to keep the Ryukyu Islands if Japan gave away the other islands, which prevented the negotiation of the promised treaty.[5][6]

Moreover, the clause was supposedly based upon agreement between the two nations, but each came to interpret it differently. The Soviet Union maintained that the territorial problem had been closed and that territorial demarcation would not be discussed beyond the promised transfer of two islands.[7] When the Japanese tried to include a passage "including territorial issue" in a sentence regarding continuation of the negotiations, the Soviets refused,[8] explicitly stating that it did so precisely to avoid interpretation that would suggest other "territorial questions" beyond Shikotan-Habomai issue.[9] The Japanese agreed to drop the expression but had a different interpretation arrived anyway. When the final agreement had been reached on the terms of the Joint Declaration, the Japanese delegation decided to interpret it as including a discussion of the territorial problem in the future peace negotiation by interpreting the declaration jointly with "Hatoyama-Bulganin letters" and "Matsumoto-Gromyko letters". Exchanged before the final negotiations on the declaration, they intended to confirm the conditions for under the so-called "Adenauer Formula" in which diplomatic relations were to be restored without signing a peace treaty and the territorial problem was to be shelved for future negotiation. The formula did not pass, however, since in spite of preliminary agreement with the Soviets to shelve the territorial issue, Japan raised it at the negotiations and managed to get their territorial clause in the declaration but "interpreted in such a manner as to preserve the plenipotentiaries' face at home": "Habomais and Shikotan were promised in the Joint Declaration, and the question of Kunashiri and Etorofu was to be settled during negotiations for a peace treaty."[8] The disagreement between "two-island transfer" stipulated in the 1956 declaration and Japan's persistent demand of "four-island return" became the cornerstone for continuation of the Kuril Islands dispute in Soviet and in post-Soviet years.[10]


On November 14, 2004, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on the NTV interview that the Russian Federation, which was the successor state of the Soviet Union, recognized the Declaration of 1956, and was ready to have territorial talks with Japan on that basis and was followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the next day.[11] However, the dispute persists,[12][13][14][15] no peace treaty has yet been signed, and the islands remain under Russian administration.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ This joint declaration clearly states "Japanese and Russian are authentic and authentic".
  2. ^ a b Texts of Soviet–Japanese Statements; Peace Declaration Trade Protocol. New York Times, page 2, October 20, 1956.
    Subtitle: "Moscow, October 19. (UP) – Following are the texts of a Soviet–Japanese peace declaration and of a trade protocol between the two countries, signed here today, in unofficial translation from the Russian". Quote: "The state of war between the U.S.S.R. and Japan ends on the day the present declaration enters into force [...]"
  3. ^ Compendium of Documents
  4. ^ "Joint Declaration of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics and Japan. Signed at Moscow, on 19 October 1956" (PDF). United Nations Treaty Series. 263: 99–117. 1957.
  5. ^ Kimie Hara, 50 Years from San Francisco: Re-Examining the Peace Treaty and Japan's Territorial Problems. Pacific Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 361–382. Available online at J-STOR.
  6. ^ Northern Territories dispute highlights flawed diplomacy. By Gregory Clark. Japan Times, March 24, 2005.
  7. ^ Furthermore, the Soviet Union and Russia have seen the agreement as recognizing the Soviet/Russian sovereignty over entire territory taken in 1945: that is, the 1956 offer was not the "return" of ostensibly-occupied territory but the "transfer" of Soviet/Russian territory made as an act of goodwill, not as a legal obligation:
    • James D. J. Brown (2016). Japan, Russia and their Territorial Dispute: The Northern Delusion. Routledge. p. 143. Within Japan it is sometimes suggested that this agreement could serve as the starting point of a process that could ultimately lead to the return of more than just two islands. This was, for instance, the proposal of Foreign Minister Watanabe during the early 1990s (Hasegawa 1998: 461). This is, however, entirely to misinterpret how the statement was intended and how it continues to be understood by proponents within Russia. For the Russian side, the 1956 Joint Declaration is significant not in serving as some initial step towards resolution, but rather in providing a decisive end to the dispute. The intended meaning is very clearly that the two smaller islands would only be transferred (note the use of "transfer" rather than "return") at some point after the conclusion of a peace treaty in which the borders of the two countries would be definitively demarcated. In effect then, Japan is being asked to give up its claims to the disputed territory and, in exchange, as a gesture of goodwill and not as a response to legal obligation, Russia would transfer Shikotan and Habomai. What is more, this would be the full extent of the Russian concessions. The Russian side will no longer countenance any further sweeteners (any "plus alpha") with regard to the other two islands, such as a promise of demilitarisation or any special arrangements that hint at recognition of the legitimacy of Japan’s claims.
    • Протокольная запись беседы Н. С. Хрущева с И. Коно 16 октября 1956 г. [Memorandum of conversation between Nikita Khrushchev and Ichirō Kōno. 16 October 1956]. Istochnik (in Russian). 6/25: 117–118. 1996. Khrushchev:<...>Desiring the wishes of Japan, the Soviet Government was ready to relinquish its rights to our possessions of Habomai and Shikotan Islands.. The dialogue continues and follows with the following remark from the Soviet leader (pp. 117–118): "The Japanese side wants to obtain Habomai and Shikotan without concluding a peace treaty and decide later on other territorial questions <...> The Soviet government wishes to come to an agreement with Japan as quickly as possible, and it does not exploit the territorial question for bargaining. But I must once again completely, definitively, and categorically declare that we do not and should not accept any other territorial claims from Japan, other than Habomai and Shikotan, and refuse to discuss any proposal whatever onthis question."
    • "Tokyo recognized USSR's ownership of Kuril Islands in 1956 Declaration, Lavrov says". TASS. May 3, 2019. Retrieved October 31, 2019. Lavrov recalled that under the Declaration Russia and Japan agreed on taking steps to achieve a peace treaty, and this implies the recognition of the outcome of World War II. The Declaration says that after signing this agreement Moscow will be ready to solve the border disengagement issue as a good will gesture and to meet the Japanese people’s interests, he noted.
      "The mere fact that the basis of such a prospect was defined as the Soviet Union's good will gesture and its intention to take into account the interests of the Japanese people means only one thing – at the moment of signing the declaration both sides considered these islands as an inalienable part of the Soviet territory," Lavrov said. "Without recognizing this fact it is impossible to move forward on the basis of the declaration."
  8. ^ a b Hara, Kimie. Japanese-Soviet/Russian Relations since 1945: A Difficult Peace (1998) online
  9. ^ Протокольная запись беседы Н. С. Хрущева с И. Коно 18 октября 1956 г. [Memorandum of conversation between Nikita Khrushchev and Ichirō Kōno. 19 October 1956]. Istochnik (in Russian). 6/25: 127–128. 1996. Khrushchev: The Soviet side is generally in agreement with proposed draft. We want to meet the wishes of Japan, so we are ready to drop the clause regarding transfer of Okinawa and other [US-administered] territories to Japan from our draft. We only have one reservation, merely of wording: we ask [Japan] to drop expression "including territorial question" from the first section of Japanese draft. We propose so, because otherwise it may be thought, that there exists some other territorial question between Japan and the Soviet Union besides Habomai and Shikotan. This might lead to rumors and misinterpretation of documents which we are about to sign.
  10. ^ James D. J. Brown (2016). Japan, Russia and their Territorial Dispute: The Northern Delusion. Routledge. p. 1. In 1956, on the occasion of the restoration of bilateral diplomatic relations, Moscow officially stated that it was willing to transfer the two smaller islands to Japan following the conclusion of a peace treaty. As confirmed by Vladimir Putin in 2000 and again in 2012, this remains Moscow's position (Soejima and Komaki 2012). Japanese leaders, however, have consistently refused to accept this offer, drawing attention to the fact that Shikotan and Habomai represent only 7 percent of the disputed territory (Prime Minister Noda cited in Nihon Keizai Shinbun 2012). Despite the passage of much time and considerable diplomatic effort, the sides have essentially been unable to proceed beyond this impasse.
  11. ^ Россия и проблема курильских островов. Тактика отстаивания или стратегия сдачи [Russia and the problem of the Kuril Islands],
  12. ^ "President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with the Cabinet members". President of Russia. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  13. ^ "Стенографический отчет о совещании с членами Правительства". Президент России (in Russian). Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  14. ^ "Япония требует отдать ей все острова Южных Курил". Российская газета (in Russian). Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  15. ^ "Пресс-конференция для российских и иностранных журналистов". Президент России (in Russian). Retrieved October 30, 2019. 1956 Joint Declaration, which was ratified in the Soviet Union, was also ratified in Japan. So, when today you say "we don't want two islands, we want four", this looks somehow strange to me. Why did you ratify [the Declaration] then?

Further readingEdit

  • Pavliatenko, Viktor. "The Difficult Road to Peace. On the 50th Anniversary of the Signing of the Joint Soviet-Japanese Declaration." Far Eastern Affairs: A Russian Journal on China, Japan and Asia-Pacific Region 34.4 (2006) pp 77–100.

External linksEdit