The territorial dispute between Japan and Russia over four islands off the northeast coast of Hokkaidō has been an enduring obstacle to closer relations between the two powers and therefore an important determinant of geopolitics in North-East Asia. Having emerged at the end of World War II, this conflict has now existed for more than seven decades. And yet, despite the passage of so much time, within Japan there remains a resilience of belief that the islands will eventually be returned.
This book provides a comprehensive analysis of Japan’s prospects of ever recovering these "Northern Territories". Offering an in-depth account of why the Japanese side believe they still have a chance of securing the return of the four islands, it also provides an objective and methodical evaluation of the prospects of these expectations being realised. The key finding is that Japanese policymakers and scholars have consistently overestimated the extent of Japan’s leverage with regard to Russia, and that there is, in fact, already no possibility whatsoever of sovereignty over the four islands being restored to Japan. This has major implications for Japanese decision makers who must balance their principled commitment not to compromise on territorial issues with more pragmatic considerations of energy security and how to contain the rise of Chinese regional power.
Presenting a unique analysis and a strikingly different perspective on this territorial dispute, the findings of this book are of considerable importance for international relations within the Asia-Pacific region. It will be of interest to students and scholars of Japanese Politics, Russian Politics and International Relations.