Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Monday ordered to speed up the military construction and civilian infrastructure in the Kurile archipelagos on which Russia and Japan have long been claiming territorial and maritime rights since the end of the Second World War.
The Russo-Japanese dispute over the islets known as the Kuriles by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan has been sourcing from the Soviet occupation during the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation at the end of World War II.
As being a chain of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Okhotsk between Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, the Kuriles constitute the backbone of Russia’s territorial and maritime disputes with Japan.
Shoigu was reportedly said to have ordered the military build-up on the islands which currently belong to Russia since the Soviet annexation, a military move that has never been recognised by Japan.
Russia has recently increased its military presence on the disputed islands which sparked Japan’s outrage since Tokyo has long been claiming that the Kurils were part of its territorial integrity and demanding the return of the archipelagos.
The Kurils consist of several large and small islands, but Tokyo has only claim over the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai.
The genesis of territorial claims and maritime disputes between Tokyo and Moscow can be traced back to the 1904 Russo-Japanese War, at a time when Russia was defeated by Japan and left the southern part of the Kurils, including Sakhalin island to the sovereignty of Tokyo.
Russia’s military drive on the Kurils has coincided with China’s effort to increase its territorial claims and military presence in the South China Sea.
Both Beijing and Moscow have recently increased their military and security ties since Russia has come under severe criticism and political-economic pressure by the West in the wake of annexation of Crimea and Ukraine crisis.
Russia and China have launched a military drill in the Mediterranean last month and the parties also agreed to practice military exercise in the South China Sea where Beijing was also exposed to harsh criticism over its military build up on the Spratly archipelagos by the US, Japan and the ASEAN nations.
Meanwhile, Japan has also territorial disputes with China due to some uninhabited islets nationalised by Tokyo in 2012 to which Japan calls Senkaku, and China calls Diaoyu in the East China Sea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s incumbent Liberal Democratic Party last month signed off a bill in the parliament that would expand Tokyo’s role in regard to the security issues in and around greater Asia-Pacific region.
Japan’s move towards redefining its new military role through reordering the pacifist constitution enables Tokyo to fight abroad and it signals a huge policy change from its conventional isolation for the first time since the Second World War.