Russia to focus on Kurils
Oct 13, 2011 18:20 Moscow Time
T-80. Photo: RIA Novosti
Russia has deployed "Buk-M1" anti-aircraft missile systems and a battalion of T-80 tanks on the Kurils. The Defence Ministry is strengthening the military contingent on the islands which are claimed by Japan. It says that this is only the first part of the plan aimed at equipping the troops on the island with advanced military hardware and weapons.
Russian experts welcome the plan, though admit that what has been done is yet insufficient. The Pacific Fleet has to be modernized and the ships should be equipped with smart anti-ship weapons and even air force units should be deployed on the islands, says a defence analyst at the Moscow-based daily "Komsomoltskaya Gazeta", Victor Baranets:
"Special weapons are needed to guarantee the security to the Kurils. I believe that the Russian Air Force will return there. There is an excellent airport, which has been abandoned although it is strategically important. I believe that the Defence Ministry will have no problems to deploy a squadron of fighter jets to start with," Victor Baranets said.
In fact, the Defence Ministry plans to deploy special weapon systems as the expert said. The mobile "Pantsir–S1" surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery systems and Buk-2 surface-to-air missile systems will be deployed on the Kurils in the near future. At the same time, the construction of contemporary military settlements with the necessary infrastructure will be built on Kunashir and Iturup.
The Russian government has been prompted to put special emphasis on the islands in the Okhotsk Sea because Japan has claimed for Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and several other small isles of the Kurils Archipelago. Tokyo refers to the 1855 Russian-Japanese Treaty on trade and borders. Moscow says that the Southern Kurils were included in the Soviet Union as an outcome of the Second World War and Russia enjoys sovereignty over the islands as the successor of the USSR. The situation is complicated by the fact that the two countries have not yet signed a peace treaty after the Second World War and are de jura still at war. Both Moscow and Tokyo have a desire to sign a peace treaty and end the conflict. But Japan has set the resolution of the territorial dispute as the main condition for signing the treaty.
The long-time dispute has grown deeper since November 2010 when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Kunashir. At the time, the Japanese government threatened "negative consequences". But Moscow said that the Russian President was free to visit any part in his country. Meanwhile, the U.S., which has been losing its influence on the Asia-Pacific region, decided to make its "contribution" to the bilateral dispute. Last summer, after American-Japanese security consultations, the two sides made the following statement. Washington and Tokyo will press for the normalization of Russian-Japanese relation by solving the "territorial issue". It's unclear how the allies will solve the issue. In any case, Russia has decided to strengthen its border territories in the Far East.