21 outubro 2021

The New 007 Movie: reminders of an old dispute

By Julia Cirne Lima Weston, LL.M in International Law at University College London, Research Assistant at Universität Passau

If one has watched the new 007 movie No Time to Die, they have been either reminded of or presented to a maritime dispute. Worry not, this column will not give you any spoilers, or at least it will try not to. The dispute in question, which appears at a certain moment in the movie, is that of the Kuril Islands. Unlike its ‘famous cousin’, the South China Sea, the Kuril Islands dispute does not often make the headlines of the world’s main news outlets.

The Kuril Islands are located North of Japan’s Hokkaido province and South of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.[1] The dispute has been ongoing between Japan and Russia since the end of World War II, when the Soviet Union conquered the archipelago.[2] A joint declaration, signed between Japan and the Soviet Union in 1956, provided for the restoration of diplomatic relations between both States and a former transfer of two islands to Japan.[3] However, as there has been no peace treaty signed between both parties, the dispute has been ongoing ever since.[4]

Russian President Putin has insisted that the absence of a peace treaty amongst the two nations is ‘nonsense’, as both States are interested in the normalization of their relations.[5] He also said that Russia has never refused to engage in dialogue regarding a peace treaty, and that Russia and Japan have frequently agreed on joint work in the territory of the Kurils, but the Japanese side often revised its stance.[6]

It is likely that one currently does not hear much about the Kuril Islands. As such, it is important to know whether there is anything current going on. In fact, there is. On 3 September of this year, during a session of the Eastern Economic Forum, Russian President Putin announced that Russia would introduce incentives, such as 10-year tax exemption, for businesses willing to invest in the Kuril Islands.[7] This is aimed to be implemented until the end of the year.[8]

Japan’s reaction was, unsurprisingly, not a happy one. On 6 September, the General Secretary of the Japanese Cabinet said that the Russian plans did not match up with Japan’s position on the issue, and that it went against the agreements on the islands.[9] Japan’s position remains that the Kuril Islands are still a part of Japan and that they were illegally occupied after World War II.[10]

Russia’s stance on it, however, is immutable. It claims that its sovereignty over the archipelago is completely legal and it does not recognize the existence of a territorial dispute with Japan.[11]

In the specific mention of the Kuril Islands in No Time to Die, it was implied that any action around the disputed islands was closely monitored not only by the conflicting parties, but also by the world’s major navies. Such is the case in other disputed island scenarios, such as the Senkaku/Diaoyu, Takeshima/Dokdo, the South China Sea, among others.

The world, as such, keeps a close eye on disputed areas. As long as Japan and Russia maintain their diverging positions, such will be the case for the time to come. It appears that such will be the case, at least for the time being. It is important, however, to recall that whenever there are island disputes, updates can come randomly and on a short notice. It is important to keep an eye out for said developments and hope that they unfold according to International Law and the maintenance of peace enshrined in the UN Charter.

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[1] LOWY INSTITUTE. Why Russia will not return the Kuril Islands to Japan. Available at: <>.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] TASS. Absence of Russian-Japanese peace treaty is nonsense — Putin. Available at: <>.

[6] ibid.

[7] RT. Russia to establish tax-free zone on Kuril Islands to attract business & draw investors – Putin. Available at: <>.

[8] NHK. Russia eyes quick introduction of tariff-free zone. Available at: <>.

[9] RT. Russia & Japan locked in standoff over Moscow’s call for firms to move to Kuril Islands, in dispute holding up WWII peace treaty. Available at: <>.

[10] NHK. Russia eyes quick introduction of tariff-free zone. Available at: <>.

[11] EU Reporter. The Kuril Islands problem as a stumbling point between Russia and Japan. Available at: <>.


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