Russia has deployed advanced missiles to contested islands claimed by Japan, but the Kremlin says there is no reason this should derail peace talks.
The Russian Pacific Fleet has installed Bal and Bastion missile systems at a naval base in the Kuril Islands, territories at the heart of a 70-year dispute between Russia and Japan, Russian media outlets reported Tuesday.
The Kurils are volcanic islands situated between Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula and Japan’s Hokkaido Island.
Japan and Russia have been working to resolve the dispute, and a breakthrough was expected during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s planned visit to Japan next month. The deployment of missiles is not exactly conducive to peace talks though.
“It should not in any way influence the centripetal trend which exists in our bilateral relations with Tokyo,” explained Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who noted that Russia was well within its rights to dispatch weaponry to the disputed islands.
The trend Peskov was referring to includes “negotiations on the peace deal issue.”
Putin met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit earlier in November. Afterwards, Putin said the two leaders were ready “to move forward in the development of bilateral relations.”
The missile systems deployed to the Kurils are advanced weapons systems. The Bastion missile system is a mobile-launch system equipped with supersonic Onyx missiles, which can eliminate ships at sea and land-based targets. The Bal complex is armed with X-35 anti-ship missiles.
Tensions over the Kurils, which Japan refers to as the Northern Territories, have complicated Russo-Japanese relations since World War II. In fact, Moscow and Tokyo reportedly never signed a formal peace treaty ending WWII hostilities due to this particular dispute.
Following Russia’s deployment of anti-ship missiles to the Kurils, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it is considering an “appropriate response” but is still committed to the peace process.
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