Putin Vows to Protect Russia’s Claim to the Kuril Islands, Disputed Territory Northeast of Japan
Putin Vows to Protect Russia’s Claim to the Kuril Islands, Disputed Territory Northeast of Japan

By Aldgra Fredly

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed on Sunday to protect areas regarded to be in Russia’s national interest including the Kuril Strait, a disputed territory that Japan claims as its own.

Putin made the remarks during Navy Day celebrations in St. Petersburg, where he signed an executive order approving a new maritime doctrine.

In his speech, Putin identified the Arctic, the Black Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bearing Sea, and the Baltic and Kuril straits as “economically vital” and “strategic” to Russia, and vowed to protect them by all means, the Kremlin reported.

“We will ensure their protection rigorously and using all available tools,” he remarked.

Putin said the Russian navy is “capable of instantly responding” to those who choose to impinge on Russia’s sovereignty and freedom, as well as carrying out its strategic missions “on any latitude of the World Ocean.”

“Its coastal, surface, air, and underwater forces and other means are highly prepared for decisive action. They are constantly being improved,” he added.

Putin also vowed that Russia’s navy will receive “Zircon” hypersonic missile systems within the next few months and that the Admiral Gorshkov frigates will be the first to be fitted with the weapons.

The location of their deployment will depend on the “interests of ensuring the security of Russia,” Putin said.

The Kuril Islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, consist of four islands: Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan, and Habomai islands. Japan claims the islands as part of its territory.

Japan and Russia have been unable to sign a peace treaty due to the nations’ disagreement over the Kuril Islands, which the former Soviet Union seized at the end of the Second World War.

Russia Halted Peace Treaty Talks

Japan’s foreign ministry stated that the four islands “have never been held by foreign countries” and that they have been under illegal occupation by Russia, and the former Soviet Union before that, since 1945.

Japan has initiated peace treaty talks with Russia “based on its basic policy of resolving the issue,” the ministry said.

Moscow later suspended negotiations with Japan in light of a series of sanctions Tokyo imposed against Russian leaders and financial institutions over the war in Ukraine.

The Russian foreign ministry said that it would be “impossible to discuss this fundamental document on bilateral relations with a state that holds an explicitly unfriendly position and seeks to harm the interests” of Russia.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks during a news conference at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on Oct. 14, 2021. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP Photo)

In response, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida criticized Russia’s decision as “extremely unreasonable and totally unacceptable” and claimed that its sanctions were a result of Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine.

Kishida stated that Japan’s goal of pursuing a peace treaty with Russia remained unchanged, but added that Japan must “resolutely continue to sanction Russia” in cooperation with the international community.

Russia has intensified its military exercises near Japan, with four Russian amphibious warfare ships spotted near northeastern Japan on March 17. Japan lodged a protest on March 29 over Russian military drills involving more than 3,000 troops on the Kuril Islands.

Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.

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