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Russia bolsters military base near Japan over Ukraine support – Times of India

WorldRussia bolsters military base near Japan over Ukraine support - Times of India

NEW DELHI: Russia is ramping up its military capabilities on the disputed Kuril Islands, strategically located off northern Japan, by constructing a network of surveillance bases. This development is seen as a response to Japan’s support for Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict there. The new bases are equipped with advanced surveillance systems similar to those used by the Russian Black Sea fleet to monitor Ukrainian activities, including drone tracking and target identification for missiles.
Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed the construction during an announcement reported by state news agency TASS on Friday. The Kuril Islands, which were captured by Soviet troops towards the end of World War II, have long been a point of contention between Japan and Russia. The proximity of the islands to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, only heightens the strategic importance of this development, a South China Morning Post said.
Analysts suggest that Russia’s move is partly to demonstrate the repercussions of Japan’s support for Ukraine. “Russia is looking for any way to ‘punish’ Japan for supporting international sanctions and providing support to Ukraine, such as imposing a ban on imports of Japanese seafood,” stated James Brown, a professor of international relations specializing in Russian affairs at Temple University’s Tokyo campus. He further added, “Moscow wants to show Japan that actions in support of Ukraine have costs and that those costs are not in Japan’s best interests.”
As per the SCMP report, surveillance bases are not only about strengthening military might but also about maintaining a watchful eye on regional activities, particularly those of Japan and its ally, the United States. “Those bases will be the eyes and ears into northern Japan, keeping Russia up to date on what Japan is doing based on its radar signals and, by extension, what its ally the US is also doing,” explained Garren Mulloy, a professor of international relations at Daito Bunka University.
The Kuril Islands stretch over 1,150 km (715 miles) and are seen as key to protecting the Sea of Okhotsk, considered by Russia as an exclusive zone crucial for its naval strategy. “Russia has come to consider the Sea of Okhotsk as its own exclusive area, and it is important as they can almost guarantee that it is free of foreign submarines of any other country and is a bastion for their own ballistic missile submarines,” Mulloy noted.
Despite the strategic expansions, the construction of new bases has reignited the longstanding territorial dispute over the islands, referred to as the Northern Territories by Japan. The dispute has prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty to end World War II officially. Intermittent talks have occurred over the future of the islands, with fluctuating prospects of territory being returned to Japan.
As Russia solidifies its position, there were speculations about a potential visit by President Vladimir Putin to the Kurils to reaffirm Moscow’s claim, although no official plans have been announced. Mulloy speculated on Putin’s travel habits, suggesting, “Putin is afraid of flying and is extremely careful when he travels, so I’m not sure he will actually go through with a visit.”
This intensification of military and surveillance activities on the Kuril Islands marks a significant moment in Russo-Japanese relations, highlighting the broader geopolitical tensions influenced by the situation in Ukraine.

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