Russia Holds Military Drills on Disputed Islands Claimed by Japan

(ANTIMEDIA)  Russia is accelerating a military buildup on a chain of islands claimed by Japan, Bloomberg reports.

Tokyo lodged a formal protest after 2,000 Russian troops held military exercises over a week ago on the four islands, called the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern territories in Japan.

The Kurils make up part of what is known as the “first island chain,” a term that also encompasses the Japanese archipelago, Taiwan, the northern Philippines, and Borneo. This “first island chain” has traditionally blocked China and Russia from injecting its military influence eastward into the Pacific Ocean through America’s control of this chain, but this current system of dominance is now under threat.

To date, Russia has kept control of the four southernmost islands of the chain after seizing them in World War II. Last year, Russia held a 3,400 strong military drill on the islands, too. Over the last couple of years, Russia has deployed anti-ship missile batteries and upgraded an artillery division. Further, at the end of last year, a senior Russian senator announced that Russia was in the process of setting up a new naval base in the Kuril islands.

“The decision has been made,” Senator Franz Klintsevich, deputy chairman of the Defense and Security Committee, told the Interfax news agency at the time. “It is in the realization stages,” he added, with the exception of some “organizational matters” regarding the constitution of the base.

According to Bloomberg, Russia already paved the way for its first military airbase in the region, days before its military exercise.

Despite having met roughly 20 times, Russia’s president and Japan’s prime minister are still yet to reach any breakthrough consensus on the issue.

“It’s good to have warm relations at the top level, but just because you are friends doesn’t mean they will give the islands back,” said Yasuhide Nakayama, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in Japan’s lower house of parliament and a member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, as quoted by Bloomberg. Russia’s military exercises sent “the worst possible message,” he also added.

Russia’s recent ambitions are allegedly in “response to U.S. actions because we have no other enemies in this region,” said Alexander Lukin, an Asia expert at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, according to Bloomberg“There’s also a psychological moment — Russia wants to demonstrate that it’s our territory and we aren’t prepared to surrender it to anyone.”

Further complicating the issue, China also recently flew an intelligence aircraft near these southern outlying islands of Japan. China has also reportedly exercised its air force around Taiwan at least 16 times in the last year or so, demonstrating its intent to one day bring Taiwan to heel and draw it under the control of the “motherland.” The cession of Taiwan and the Kuril islands will be a major blow to the United States, which has used the chain of islands for years to block Russian and Chinese access to the rest of the Pacific Ocean.

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