21 March 2017

News Story: Japan, Russia defense chiefs eye deeper ties, divided on some issues

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese and Russian defense ministers agreed Monday to deepen bilateral cooperation in hopes of dealing with regional security challenges and to continue joint training between their nations' troops for maritime rescue and search operations, a Japanese official said.

Touchy topics were also discussed, with Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada protesting Russia's increasing military presence on disputed islands off Hokkaido, and her counterpart Sergei Shoigu criticizing a missile defense system deployed in Japan that also involves components owned by the United States.

Inada was referring to the Russian-controlled, Japanese-claimed islands off Japan's northernmost main island. The protracted dispute on the sovereignty of Etorofu, Kunashiri and Shikotan islands, and the Habomai islet group, has prevented the two countries from concluding a post-World War II peace treaty.

Russia has been modernizing its military on the Kuril Islands, which separate the Sea of Okhotsk from the Pacific Ocean and include the disputed islands. It has deployed state-of-the-art antiship missile systems on two of the disputed territories, while also planning to boost troop strength in the Kuril Islands.

Experts say Russia's aim is to step up the defense of its nuclear submarines that patrol the Sea of Okhotsk and to prepare to counter serious threats from the United States.

During the talks, Inada argued that Russia's military activities in what Japan calls the Northern Territories goes against the position of Japan, which views the four islands as its "inherent territory."

Read the full story at The Mainichi