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Japan protests over major Russian Kuril Islands naval exercises

Japan has expressed mounting concerns over recent exercises and increased military activity carried out by Russia around the disputed southern Kuril Islands.

The Russian Navy's Pacific Fleet carried out extensive naval manoeuvres from 23–28 June around the southern Kuril Islands of Etorofu and Kunashiri, opposite northern Japan, which Tokyo has claimed as its own territory.

The drills involved both naval forces and long-range maritime aviation, including early warning aircraft. Moscow has recently deployed Bal and Bastion-P coastal defence missile systems and S-400 air defence systems on both Kunashiri Island, just 10 km off the coast of Hokkaido, as well as neighbouring Etorofu.

During a visit to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces base in Hokkaido on 29–30 June, Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi expressed concerns about the increase in military activities and exercises around the islands. “[Russia] is actively continuing its [military] activities in the Far East region,” he said during the visit.

He stressed that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces should protect the airspace in the north of the country. He urged “not to lose sight of the long-range flights of Russian aviation, including early warning aircraft and fighters, over the seas of Japan and Okhotsk”.

Kishi said he would “watch with interest” the movements of Russian forces in the area. He also observed that joint training with China has become more active.

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