(Reuters) – Russia was conducting drills on islands claimed by Tokyo, Japanese media said on Saturday, days after Moscow halted peace talks with Japan because of its sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Eastern Military District said it was conducting military drills on the Kuril islands with more than 3,000 troops and hundreds of pieces of army equipment, Russia’s Interfax news agency said Friday.
It did not say where on the island chain, connecting Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula and Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, the drills were taking place. Japanese media said they were on territory the Soviet Union seized at the end of World War Two that is claimed by Tokyo.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office could not be reached outside business hours to comment on the exercises.
The territorial dispute over the four islets – which Russia says are part of its Kuril chain and which Japan calls its Northern Territories – has prevented Tokyo and Moscow from reaching a peace treaty formally ending hostilities.
Japan reacted angrily on Tuesday after Russia withdrew from long-running treaty talks and froze joint economic projects related to the islands, in retaliation for Japan joining Western sanctions over Moscow’s month-old invasion.
Russia’s exercises involved repelling amphibious warfare, including destroying defence aircraft carrying troops and testing skills to operate fire control systems of anti-tank guided missiles, Interfax said.
“In addition to this, units of the Air Defense Forces are carrying out a set of measures to detect, identify and destroy aircraft of a mock enemy that would carry out an airborne assault,” the agency cited the District’s press service as saying.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne; Additional reporting by Junko Fujita in Tokyo; Editing by William Mallard)