TOKYO, August 13 (RIA Novosti) – Japan’s Foreign Ministry lodged a protest over military drills on Russia’s Kuril Islands, four of which Japan has also laid claim to, the ministry’s press release said Wednesday.
“Based on our country’s legal status, holding drills in the Northern Territories [Japan’s name for the islands] is unacceptable. We voiced a strong protest,” the statement reads.
Earlier on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called Russian military drills unacceptable, while representatives of the country’s Foreign Ministry stressed that the exercises were “carried out unilaterally.”
The Eastern Command inter-branch drills started Tuesday and involve the simulation of a naval invasion on the Kuril Islands. The military units stationed on the Kurils, as well as subunits from an airborne unit in Primorsky Province, and aircraft and a naval task group from the Pacific Fleet are taking part in the exercise. The drills involve over 1,000 troops, five Mil Mi-17 “Hip” helicopters and around 100 units of combat and special equipment.
The head of the Eastern Command’s press service, Aleksandr Gordeyev, stressed that the exercise was scheduled as part of inter-branch training efforts.
Japan and Russia have been locked in a dispute over four of the Kuril Islands since the end of the Second World War, which has prevented the nations from signing a formal peace treaty. Russia refers to the islands as the Southern Kurils, while their name in Japanese translates to the Northern Territories. The islands, which the Soviet Union took from the Japanese Empire in the final days of the war, are currently administered by Russia.