Lost in Translation

Writing treaties in two languages can lead to unexpected problems.

Peace process: the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Japan and Russia, 7 February 1855

In early May 2019, the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono travelled to Moscow to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, to settle an old score. To this day, the Pacific powers have never signed a peace treaty following the Second World War. May’s meeting built on diplomatic efforts made earlier this year by the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Russian President Vladimir Putin to resolve the longstanding dispute over a remote group of islands known as the Kurils. For 70 years, Russia has occupied the chain’s four southernmost islands, which Japan claims as part of its integral territory. February of this year marked the 25th time the two heads of state have met to reconcile the territorial tiff.

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