Channel NewsAsia

Japan protests Russian military exercises on disputed islands

Tokyo lodged a strong protest with Moscow on Thursday (Aug 14) after Russia started a large-scale military drill on a northern Pacific island chain which Japan also claims as its own.

TOKYO: Tokyo lodged a strong protest with Moscow on Thursday (Aug 14) after Russia started a large-scale military drill on a northern Pacific island chain which Japan also claims as its own.

The exercises, which prompted a condemnation from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, could jeopardise improving ties between the two countries and further delay the signing of a peace treaty to solve the decades-old dispute.

The islands north of Hokkaido, which are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the southern Kurils in Russia, are behind a contentious territorial spat between the two nations since WWII, when Russia seized the islands after Japan's surrender in 1945.

The latest development will hamper already shaky ties.

Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin had gained significant ground in mending strained relations over the years. Both leaders have held several bilateral talks since 2012. Putin had planned to visit Japan this autumn, with the aim of signing a formal peace treaty over the Pacific islands. But Japanese media are saying this may not happen after all.

With these military drills taking place, analysts question if Russia had ever intended to advance talks with Japan over claims to these islands. Some see the drills as Russia's way of hitting back at Japan for recent sanctions.

Japan had joined the US and EU in imposing additional sanctions against Russia decisions that were made following the annexation of Crimea and the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.  

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia