Earthquake in Kuril Islands

Kuril island

An earthquake struck the Kuril Islands far north of Japan, and far eastern Russian Sunday, but no damage or tsunami alerts are reported.

The magnitude of the quake has reports of various strengths, between 5.2 and 7.2.

The tremor struck around midday in the Pacific Ocean at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers. The US Geological Survey measured a stronger 7.2 magnitude.

The government of Japan said they expect some changes in the ocean’s flow, but nothing of a serious nature.  Both Japan and Russia have some sparsely populated islands in the area.

The epicentre was 58 kilometres east-northeast of Kuril’sk, Russia, and 528 kilometres northeast of Nemuro, Japan.

Recently, the Russian government gave two of the southern Kuril islands to the Japanese.  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is described as a right wing nationalist by the West.  He took over last year as Prime Minister, and launched an ambitious plan of economic reforms where 20 trillion Japanese yen will be allocated to stimulate the Japanese economy.

Before his recent visit to Moscow, the prime minister, cabinet members and parliamentarians visited Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo to honor the Day of Remembrance of the return of the sovereignty of Japan (April 28th).  The Shrine houses plaques with the names of 2.5 million Japanese soldiers and officers (including 14 war criminals ) of the Second World War.

Abe is seeking a peace treaty with the Russians, but his actions are causing a harsh reaction in South Korea, and in the United States.

Abe objects to the word “aggression” to the attacks on the United States in 1941.  He claims it’s “how you look at it”.   He believes that it is “natural” to honor the memory of the Japanese killed in the war, those who “gave their lives for their country,” and that “the government will not pay attention to threats.”

His father was sympathetic towards Russia. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shintaro Abe visited Moscow on several occasions and even planted 200 cherry trees in the Botanic Garden that bloom beautifully every spring.

Abe reportedly spent three days with Putin, discussing a new relationship between the two countries.

A peace treaty with Japan is still a distant and murky prospect, but improvement in cooperation on energy, trade and investment is quite possible today. Japan is the second largest trading partner of Russia in Asia after China, with an increase in turnover of 5.3 percent in the last year to 32 billion dollars. The total accumulated investment from Japan to the Russian economy at the end of last year amounted to 10.7 billion dollars.

Meanwhile, it appears that new tensions are rising between Japan and the United States.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express

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