Tensions build over little-known islands Russia seized off Japan’s coast

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Japan’s “militarisation” complicates the situation in the Asia-Pacific region, deputy chair of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said.

Russia and Japan have complex relations marked by decades of territorial dispute over a handful of small, Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that Moscow calls the southern Kurils, but Japan claims as its Northern Territories.

Dmitry Medvedev (left) visits a military outpost on Iturup Island in 2015 when he was prime minister.Credit: Reuters

The dispute over the area, which the Soviet Union seized in the final days of World War Two, has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from reaching a peace treaty formally ending hostilities.

“It is regrettable that the Japanese authorities are pursuing a course towards a new militarisation of the country,” the Russian TASS news agency quoted Medvedev as saying on Sunday.

“Troop exercises are taking place near the Kuril Islands, which seriously complicates the situation in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Japan’s foreign ministry and Prime Minister’s Office could not immediately be reached for comment outside business hours.

Russia decided this year to declare September 3 – the day after Japan’s surrender in World War Two – a “Day of Victory over Militaristic Japan”, spurring a protest from Tokyo.

Medvedev said Japan, with help from the United States, was expanding its military infrastructure and increasing its arms purchases.

Japan’s defence ministry on Thursday sought a record $53 billion in next fiscal year’s budget, part of its biggest military buildup since World War Two, aiming to double defence spending to 2 per cent of gross domestic product by 2027, citing an increasingly assertive China and an unpredictable North Korea.


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