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Japan lodges protest over pending Russian military drills on Kunashir Island

The firing exercise will run on Kunashir Island from July 27 to late August

TOKYO, July 26. /TASS/. The Japanese government has lodged a protest against Moscow over pending Russian military drills on Kunashir Island, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on Monday.

"On July 22, we sent a note of protest to the Russian side via diplomatic channels to the effect that these firing drills that lead to the stronger Russian military presence on the Northern Territories [Japan’s term for the South Kuril Islands] are unacceptable and do not comply with our country’s position," Kato said at a regular press conference.

Japan’s daily newspaper Sankei reported earlier on Monday, citing sources that the Russian government had informed the Japanese side of the pending firing exercise on Kunashir Island that would run from July 27 to late August.

Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin was summoned to Japan’s Foreign Ministry on Monday where Japanese Senior Deputy Foreign Minister Takeo Mori voiced a protest to him over a trip by Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to Iturup Island. As the news agency Kyodo reported, the Russian envoy told reporters that Moscow did not accept Tokyo’s protest. The Russian embassy in Japan has not commented on the situation yet.

Mishustin is currently on a visit to Russia’s Far East and Siberia. The premier’s program kicked off with visit to a special part of the region - the Kuril Archipelago, namely Iturup Island. He is scheduled to tour the Kuril central district clinic and inspect a fish processing plant.

President Vladimir Putin earlier requested that he pay particular attention to the southern Kuril Islands during the trip. Putin pointed out that Russia had long been in talks with Japan on creating "conditions for economic entities" there. The Russian leader also announced "unique and unprecedented" proposals on involving Japan in the economic activity of the Kuril Islands. The final initiatives will be formulated following the results of Mishustin’s trip, the Russian president explained.

Peace treaty

For decades, Moscow and Tokyo have been holding consultations in order to clinch a peace treaty as a follow-up to World War II. The southern Kuril Islands issue remains the key sticking point. In 1945, the whole archipelago was handed over to the Soviet Union. However, Tokyo laid claims to Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and a group of uninhabited islands.

Tokyo frequently lodges protests over Russia’s activity on the southern Kuril Islands, which Moscow consistently rejects. The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated that Moscow’s sovereignty over the islands is enshrined in international law and cannot be called into question.

Mishustin’s predecessor as prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, visited the Kuril Islands several times. Moreover, he visited the island while serving both as the country’s prime minister and president. Medvedev’s first-ever tour of the region was in 2010. Before that, Russia’s top leaders had never visited the Kuril Islands.