Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Russia, you’ve made Japan really mad

    Russian naval base on islands claimed by Japan could lead to fireworks
The disputed isles between Japan and Russia.
Debra Killalea 

RUSSIA has revealed plans to build a naval base on territory that includes disputed islands in a move sure to anger rival Japan.
In a daring and ambitious move, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed Moscow was considering setting up a naval base in the Kuril Islands.

However the area in the Far East of the country is on land Japan already considers to be part of its territory.

Mr Shoigu told a ministry session that a naval expedition is due to leave in April for the Greater Kuril Ridge in order to “study the possibility of basing forces of the Pacific Fleet on the archipelago”.

The islands, which Japan refers to as the Northern Territories and Russia as the southern Kurils, is at the centre of a long-held dispute between the military powerhouses dating back to the end of World War II.

Anger of the ownership of the four islands — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai group of islets — is so strong that it has prevented the two from signing a peace treaty.

The islands were seized by the Soviet army in the closing days of World War II following Japan’s surrender.

Japan has been fighting for recognition of its ownership of the islands ever since.

However Russia maintains it will return Shikotan and the Habomai islets following the conclusion of a post-war peace treaty, Japan Times reported.
Russia’s plan will not go down with Japan. It’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin next month. Source:AFP

Russia’s build up extends far beyond Europe with the military in Asia set to see the deployment of state-of-the art Bal and Bastion anti-ship missile systems and new drones to the southern Kurils.

The anti-ship missile systems to be deployed on the disputed islands are capable of hitting targets more than 300km away, according to Associated Press.

Ms Shoigu confirmed Russia was strongly considering the possibility of setting up a naval base on the islands.

Ships of Russia’s Pacific Fleet will visit the area in the northern summer to study possible locations, he said, adding the military will also continue to strengthen its presence in the Arctic region.

The Kremlin has made expanding Russia’s military presence in order to protect the country’s national interests in the Arctic a top priority in light of increasing international interest in the region’s vast oil and other resources.

Russia’s military move comes just weeks ahead of a meeting to be held between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The pair are expected to meet in May where it is hoped they will come to some sort of resolution over the dispute.


Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu unveiled Russia’s military plans last week. Source:AP

The move is part of Russia’s big plan to beef up its military forces all the way from its western border to the Pacific Islands.

It is not known how much it will cost all up, but it takes place at a time when the Russian economy is in recession under the dual impact of low oil prices and Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its role in the Ukrainian crisis.

In announcing the build-up, Mr Shoigu said the deployment of NATO’s forces near Russia’s borders had caused concern and as part of a response new units in the Western Military District, including two new divisions, would be formed.

The military forces in western Russia will receive 1100 new weapons systems, including warplanes, helicopters, tanks and other armoured vehicles.

In terms of its build up in Asia, Mr Shoigu also revealed that Bal and Bastion shore-to-ship missiles and Eleron-3 drones will be deployed on the disputed islands by the end of 2015, according to Japan Times.

Can Russian President Vladimir Putin fix it? Source:AP

The islands lie of the northern island of Hokkaido and in the 18th and 19th centuries saw the minority Ainu community migrate there, the BBC reported.

The islands were taken by Russia in 1949. Russia deported its citizens back to Japan and the islands are now home to a 30,000 strong Russian community.

However the dispute is about more than just land and people.

According to the BBC, the islands are not only rich in fish stocks but reportedly hold oil and gas reserves.

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