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For Japanese leaders and citizens, President Vladimir Putin's brutal annexation of Crimea was an unsurprising return to the normal paradigm of Russian history.Japan is particularly concerned with Russian expansionism, because it is the only G-7 country that currently has a territorial dispute with Russia, which has occupied its northern territories since the waning days of World War II. That occupation began between Aug. 28 and Sept. 5, 1945, when the Soviet Union hurriedly nullified the existing Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Treaty and invaded not only Japanese-occupied Manchuria, but also southern Sakhalin Island and the ancient Japanese territories of Etorofu Island, Kunashiri Island, Shikotan Island and the Habomai Islands.In the immediate future, Japan will work with the G-7 to ensure that Putin's reckless ambitions do not endanger other parts of Ukraine.Before the Crimea invasion, territorial negotiations between Japan and Russia showed signs of progress. So Putin's talk about reaching an agreement with Japan on the northern territories was likely as mendacious as his claims that Russians in Crimea were in peril, and thus in need of protection by Russian troops.More important, Japan understands that business as usual with an aggressive Russia that undermines the international order could embolden others closer to home to embrace Putin's lawless tactics.
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