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International relations

Word choice reveals perception gap in Japan-Russia dispute

'Transfer' vs. 'return' of islands raises questions over sovereignty

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Nov. 14 to work toward a post-World War II peace treaty based on a 1956 Japan-USSR joint declaration.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan and Russia have agreed on a starting point for negotiations on a long-standing territorial dispute, but the differing terms each side uses to talk about the issue makes clear that they are not quite on the same page.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Wednesday to accelerate negotiations toward a post-World War II peace treaty based on the 1956 Joint Declaration of Japan and the USSR. This document stipulates that two of the four disputed southern Kuril Islands -- Shikotan and the Habomai islets -- are to be transferred to Japan after a treaty is concluded.

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