Japan Lodges Protest With Russia Over Naval Drills On Disputed Kuril Islands

Japan has lodged a protest with Russia via diplomatic channels over the Naval drills in the waters of the Sea of Japan off the Sakhalin Island and the Southern Kuril Islands that Tokyo considers part of its Northern Territories, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on Thursday.

Russia launched on Wednesday a large-scale military exercise on the islands of Sakhalin, Iturup and Kunashir, as well as in the waters of the Sea of Japan, involving more than 10,000 servicemen, up to 500 units of military equipment, some 32 aircraft, about 12 vessels of the Pacific Fleet.

“We intend to further monitor actions of the Russian military on the Northern Territories. On [June] 23, a protest was lodged via diplomatic channels over the fact that the strengthening of Russia’s military presence on the islands, including the conduct of such maneuvers, runs counter to the position of Japan,” Kato said at a press conference.

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Moscow-Tokyo relations have long been complicated by the fact that they have never signed a permanent peace treaty following World War II. The main stumbling block is their dispute over a group of four islands — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and Habomai — referred to as the Southern Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan.

Meanwhile, Japan and the United States are beginning large-scale joint military exercises – Orient Shield. The drills will involve about 3,000 servicemen.

The joint exercises of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the US Armed Forces will be held at Japanese bases and training grounds from June 24 to July 11.

The annual Orient Shield exercise is one of the largest joint maneuvers aimed at improving the effectiveness of joint tactical planning, coordination and interoperability of the armed forces.

In March, the defense ministers of Japan and the United States agreed to increase the coordination of actions of employees of the two countries by conducting highly active joint exercises.