Russia is conducting military drills on the Kuril Islands, a chain of four islands that is also claimed by Japan. Japan and Russia have technically been at war since WWII, due in part to this dispute over what Japan calls the Northern Territories. Reuters reports on the Russian operation:
“Exercises began involving military units in the region, which are deploying to the Kurile Islands,” Colonel Alexander Gordeyev, a spokesman for Russia’s Eastern Military District, told the Russian news agency Interfax.He said more than 1,000 troops, five Mi-8AMTSh attack helicopters and 100 other pieces of military hardware would be involved in the manoeuvres.
Japan has responded with predictably strong words, reports the Japan Times:
Calling the military exercises on the Northern Territories “totally unacceptable,” [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe told reporters in Yamaguchi Prefecture. “We will lodge a strong protest with Russia through the Foreign Ministry.”A senior ministry official also said, “The Northern Territories are an inherent part of Japan’s territory, and we cannot accept the move.”
Many had hoped that Russia and Japan would take steps toward resolving their century-and-a-half old territorial dispute during the age of Abe and Putin, but Japan’s alignment with the West over Putin’s actions in Ukraine has strained their previously promising working relationship. After the recent ASEAN conference in Myanmar did little to relieve tensions over competing claims in the South China Sea, things are getting even more dangerous. More and more sparks are flying around Asia’s geopolitical powder keg.