The Japanese government has lodged a protest against Russia through diplomatic channels about its recent military drills on a chain of islands — including those disputed with Japan — Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Monday.
“Russia’s military expansion in the Northern Territories is unacceptable as it goes against our country’s position regarding those islands,” Matsuno told a news conference, referring to four islands seized from Japan by Soviet troops in the closing days of World War II.
The protest was made on Friday after the Russian military announced that it had held exercises involving more than 3,000 troops.
It was the first drill on the disputed islands off Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido since Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced last week that it was suspending territorial talks with Japan. Russia was withdrawing from the talks over Tokyo’s sanctions against Moscow in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.
Hundreds of military vehicles participated in the drill under a scenario of launching a counterattack against enemy forces attempting to land, Russian media said Friday.
Japan claims the Soviet Union illegally seized the four islands — Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai group of islets — soon after Japan’s surrender in World War II in August 1945, while Moscow argues the move was legitimate.
Earlier this month, the Defense Ministry said that it had spotted four large Russian amphibious warfare ships sailing through a strait in northeastern Japan as they traveled west, possibly toward Europe to aid in the war in Ukraine.
Days before that, Japan protested after six Russian Navy vessels passed through the Soya Strait between Cape Soya in Hokkaido and the Russian island of Sakhalin.
The Japanese government conveyed to Moscow that it is closely monitoring the Russian military’s growing activities in areas around Japan amid the Ukraine crisis, while expressing grave concern over the moves.
That incident came after 10 Russian warships passed through the Tsugaru Strait between Hokkaido and Japan’s main island of Honshu in early March. Japan also lodged a protest with Moscow after the Russian Defense Ministry said it had conducted a missile drill on the disputed islets on March 11.
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