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Japan concerned over possible set-up of Russian Pacific Fleet base in Kurils

The Japanese Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu's recent statement that Russia's Pacific Fleet will consider possibilities of setting up a base on the Kuril Islands.

The Russian Embassy in Tokyo confirmed on Monday that Director of Japanese Foreign Ministry's Russian Division Tokuda Shuichi held a meeting with Russian Ambassador in Japan Dmitry Birichevsky.

"We are concerned with this statement by Defense Minister Shoigu," Tokuda said. "If these words mean strengthening military infrastructure on northern territories (Kuril Islands), then this fact concerns us," he added.

On March 25 Shoigu said at the session of the defense ministry's collegium that "Pacific Fleet sailors will start a three month-long expedition to islands of the Greater Kuril Ridge in April." "Their main goal is to study the possibilities of setting up a Pacific Fleet base there in future," he added.

The defense minister said earlier that Russia would deploy Bal and Bastion coastal defense missile systems and new-generation Eleron-3 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on the Kuril Islands in 2016.

Tor-M2U (NATO reporting name: SA-15 Gauntlet) short-range surface-to-air missile systems assumed combat duty on the Kuril Islands last year.

Territorial dispute over Kuril Islands

Russia and Japan have no peace treaty signed after World War II. Settlement of the problem inherited by Russia's diplomacy from the Soviet Union is hampered by the years-long dispute over the four islands of Russia's Southern Kurils Shikotan, Khabomai, Iturup and Kunashir, which Japan calls its northern territories.

After World War II, in September 1945, Japan signed the capitulation, and in February 1946, the Kuril Islands were declared territories of the Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, Moscow did not recognize the territorial problem, but in October 1993, when Russian president Boris Yeltsin was on an official visit in Japan, the existence of the problem was confirmed officially. However, the two countries have reached no compromise over the dispute yet.

[Source: Itar Tass, Tokyo, 28Mar16]

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