On September 10–11 RENGO (Japanese Trade Union Confederation) held the 2011 Peace Nosappu Rally for the return of the Northern Territories in Nemuro, Hokkaido, with the participation of about 600 union members.
At the beginning of the assembly, RENGO General Secretary Hiroyuki Nagumo said emphatically, "This year is the sixty-sixth year since the Northern Territories [four islands to the north of Japan] were illegally occupied, and the illegal occupation by Russia is still continuing. On the basis of its plan for the social and economic development of the Kuril Islands, Russia plans to achieve economic development and infrastructure construction on the islands with the help of foreign capital, thereby making its occupation of the Northern Territories a fait accompli. RENGO calls on the government to build a powerful diplomatic base vis-à-vis Russia. From now on we will do our utmost for the complete return of the four islands."
From the government, Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba sent a message to the assembly, saying with determination, "Although we must solve the problem of the Northern Territories as quickly as possible, the positions of the Japanese and Russian governments are far apart. We will negotiate tenaciously toward the conclusion of a peace treaty."
Among other events held with the participation of local citizens of Nemuro, there was a symposium on the Northern Territories, a panel exhibit relating to the present status of the Northern Territories, and a study session concerning the islands. The participants learned about the Northern Territories problem and peace treaty problem and shared their recognition concerning the territorial issue.
Participants made such comments as "The former residents of the islands who have continued their wish to return home are getting old, so settlement of the Northern Territories problem is a race against time" and "Toward the realization of permanent peace, it is important for labour unions to disseminate the reality of war and preciousness of peace in workplaces, families, and communities."
The Northern Territories Problem
Despite the fact that Japan unconditionally surrendered in the Pacific War on August 15, 1945, immediately afterward the Soviet Union invaded four islands (Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan, and the Habomai group), which are indigenous Japanese territory. These four islands, called the Northern Territories, are still illegally occupied by Russia. The Japanese government is calling on Russia to return all four islands.