Russia has deployed coastal defense missile systems near the Pacific Islands also claimed by Japan, a move meant to underscore Moscow’s firm stance in the dispute.
Bastion missile systems have been moved to Matua, a deserted volcanic island in the middle of the Kuril Islands chain. Japan claims four of the southernmost islands.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday released a video showing huge missile carriers moving ashore from amphibious landing ships and along the coast of the volcanic island to take up firing positions for exercises. The ministry said the deployment involved setting up living quarters for staff, hangars for vehicles and other infrastructure.
The Bastion is capable of hitting sea targets up to 500 km (270 nautical miles).
In recent years, Russia has sought to strengthen its military presence on the Kuril Islands, which was seized by the Soviet Union in the closing days of World War II.
In 2016, it stationed the Bal and Bastion coastal defense missile systems on two of the four southernmost Kuril Islands. In the following years he sent high-end air defense missile systems there and set up an air base on the island of Iturup where fighter jets were deployed.
Japan claims territorial rights over the four southernmost islands of the Kuril Mountains and calls them Northern Territories. The dispute has prevented countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their hostilities.
The island of Matua, oval in shape and 11 km long, hosted a Japanese military base during World War II. After the Soviets took control of the Kuril Islands, Matua housed a Soviet military base which was closed due to lack of funding following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia has the sovereign right to deploy its military forces wherever it deems necessary in its territory. He added that Russia values relations with Japan and remains committed to efforts to negotiate a settlement.
“We maintain a political will to continue a comprehensive dialogue with our Japanese partners in order to find means of settlement,” Peskov told reporters.