In an interview with a Japanese government source, the Sankei learned that Russia notified Japan that it would conduct firing practice from Dec. 16 near Kunashiri Island, a part of the Northern Territories, which Russia illegally occupies. Russia has repeatedly conducted large-scale military exercises in the Northern Territories, and such training has become a normal occurrence on the islands. The Japanese government is wary about this, seeing it as a move by Russia to increase its effective control.
According to the government source, Russia notified Japan it would conduct firing practice on Kunashiri from Dec. 16. The Japanese government protested through diplomatic channels, saying, “It is unacceptable because it would lead to the buildup of Russian armaments in the Northern Territories and is incompatible with Japan’s position.”
On Dec. 15, Russian intelligence-gathering aircraft and other aircraft believed to belong to Russia flew long distances, going back and forth between the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean, traveling over the Sea of Okhotsk and passing over the Northern Territories at times. Air Self-Defense Force fighters were scrambled in response. The Ministry of Defense is wary because it is peculiar for Russia to conduct so many flights in the vicinity of Japan on one day.
This year Russia has notified Japan of multiple military exercises around Kunashiri and neighboring Etorofu. Surface-to-air missile systems are deployed on both islands in battle-ready form. It is said that large-scale exercises based on the scenario of advanced combat were conducted on the Northern Territories in February and June, and there is concern that Russia is building up its armaments.
In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he will create a special economic zone in the Northern Territories. He is also encouraging economic activities on the islands, including inviting the South Korean government to invest. Japan and Russia have been discussing conducting joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands, so the Japanese side finds it unacceptable for Russia to urge third countries to develop and invest in them