|Vladimir Putin (Image: Wiki Commons)|
ST. PETERSBURG (Kyodo) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday expressed concern that disputed islands controlled by Moscow but claimed by Tokyo could be armed by the U.S. military if they are returned to Japan.
Putin also said in an interview with Kyodo News and other media outlets that Russia's military buildup on the islands off Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido is aimed at countering U.S. threats.
While emphasizing that demilitarization on the islands is possible, Putin said it should be considered in the context of reducing tension throughout the region. He said the islets are geographically and strategically significant.
The islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group were seized by the Soviet Union after Japan surrendered in August 1945 at the end of World War II. They are called the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.
The dispute has prevented the two countries from signing a postwar peace treaty.
Read the full story at The Mainichi