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Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers to reporters' questions at his official residence in Tokyo Friday, March 11, 2022.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida answers to reporters' questions at his official residence in Tokyo Friday, March 11, 2022. (細島啓/AP)

TOKYO - Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday during a House of Councillors committee session that the northern territories are being “occupied illegally by Russia.”

The government had avoided using such an expression to promote negotiations for a peace treaty that would address the northern territories issue, but has now changed its stance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to the Foreign Ministry, this is the first time a Japanese prime minister in the Diet has referred to an “illegal occupation” regarding the northern territories since 2009, when then Prime Minister Taro Aso used the expression. At that time, Russia criticized its use, saying it was an attempt to challenge Russia’s sovereignty.

During a Budget Committee session on Thursday, Renho, an upper house member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called for revising a budget plan for fiscal 2022 in which about 2.1 billion yen has been earmarked for economic cooperation with Russia. However, Kishida said, “That’s not something I’m considering.”

“Under the current circumstances, there is no way we can proceed with new [economic cooperation] projects,” Kishida said.

However, he went on to say that “the budget covers what could be called humanitarian assistance, such as joint research on pediatric cancer and medical care for the elderly.”

The budget also includes funds to provide information and other things to Japanese companies that have [already] started participating in the economic cooperation plans,” he added.


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