Japan protests against Russian air drills in Kuril Islands

Japan has filed a protest with Russia concerning Russian air drills over the island of Iturup, Japanese Foreign Minister Tarō Kōno said in response to questions from MPs of the Lower House.

On Monday, two Russian Su-35 fighters executed a drill to relocate from Khabarovsk Krai to the Burevestnik reserve military airbase on Iturup Island, covering a distance of over 2,000 kilometers. The exercise was done in order to improve their flight training and their experience in defending Russia’s air borders.

“This will lead to an intensification of Russian military presence in the northern territories [Japan’s term for the four southern Kuril islands], which does not coincide with our country’s position on these islands,” the minister said, citing the text which was transmitted through the diplomatic channels.

Russian-Japanese relations have been overshadowed for many years by the absence of a peace treaty. Japan claims the islands of Kunashir, Shikotan, Iturup and Habomai as part of its territory, citing the 1855 Treaty on trade and borders.

In 1965 the USSR and Japan signed the Joint Declaration, in which Moscow agreed to consider the possibility of transferring Habomai and Shikotan to Japan after the signing of a peace treaty. The fate of Kunashir and Iturup was not addressed. The USSR believed that the Joint Declaration would put an end to the dispute, whereas Japan considered the document only the beginning of a solution to the issue, and did not renounce its claims to the other two islands. Subsequent negotiations led nowhere, and no peace treaty was signed between the two countries at the end of World War II.

Moscow’s position is that the islands became part of the USSR at the end of World War II, and that there is no doubt of Russia’s sovereignty over them.

  Kuril Islands, Russian military exercises, Japan