Russia Holds Military Drills in Disputed Islands with Japan Mid-Olympics
The government of Japan protested on Tuesday that the Russian military is staging drills in the Kuril Islands, a contested archipelago north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, as Japan attempts to host the Summer Olympics.
“We can’t accept Russia’s moves to strengthen its military in the Northern Territories,” government spokesman Katsunobu Katosaid, per the Wall Street Journal.
Making remarks at the Chitose military base in Hokkaido, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi cautioned that “[Russia] is actively continuing its [military] activity in the Far Eastern region,” according to Russian state media outlet Tass. He nonetheless expressed confidence that Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) were prepared to deter any Russian aggression. Both men referred to the “Northern Territories” in their remarks, Tokyo’s official term for the islands it claims but over which it exercises no practical control.
The Soviet Union seized the Kurils, which include 56 islands, in 1945 from the Empire of Japan at the end of World War II. Tokyo still claims the southernmost islands but has thus far failed to convince Russia to return them. The Japanese government held full sovereignty over the chain from 1875 when the Russian Empire gave up claims to the Kurils for full control of Sakhalin Island under the Treaty of Saint Petersburg. Japan reclaimed the southern half of Sakhalin Island during the Russo-Japanese War (1905) and later the whole island until 1924. The Soviet Union took back all of Sakhalin in 1945, along with the Kurils.