Friday, 18 February 2011

Russia to deploy air defence missils to Kuril Islands

S-400 missiles are to be deployed on the Kuril Islands
Tensions remain high between Russia and Japan as Japan ups the rhetoric, and Russia ups the military presence on the disputed Kuril Islands.

Relations hit a stumbling block in November 2010 when Russian president Dmitry Medvedev visited one of the Kuril Islands, the first Soviet or Russian leader to do so, and pledged more investment for the region. In televised meeting last Wednesday, 9th February, Medvedev upped the stakes by referring to the Kuril Islands as 'part of Russia' and saying that his country's 'strategic presence' on them would be 'stepped up'.

Speaking last week about Medvedev's November visit, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan referred to this as having constituted an 'inexcusable rudeness'.

This prompted a hardening of the Kremlin's position, and the head of the presidential administration, Sergei Naryshkin, responded by saying that Russian leaders “will continue visiting Russia's regions, including the Kuril Islands.”

The recent row was prompted by Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov's visit to the islands last week. Crisis talks between Russia and Japan ended in failure last Friday, 11th February when Tokyo reaffirmed its claim and Moscow accused its neighbour of extreme behaviour.

On Tuesday 15th February, a high-ranking official in the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces elaborated on Medvedev's military message, saying that short and long range air defence missiles, including the advanced S-400 Triumf system would be deployed to the southern Kuril Islands.

This move caused outrage in Japan, but also prompted criticism from a senior Russian military commander. Major General Sergei Popov, chief of the Air Force Antiaircraft and Missile troops, said the deployment was overkill.

"Given the proximity of the state border, it is inexpedient to deploy a Space Defense Force brigade with S-400 systems on the Kuril Islands," he said.

Japan gained full control of the island chain in the 1875 Treaty of St Petersburg, but lost it to the Soviets in the closing stages of the Second World War. The issue has remained unresolved since, and the two countries are still technically in a state of war.

Sources: Tribune Magazine, Ria Novosti, AFP

For more information on this dispute, see the Menas Borders website, here.

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