MOSCOW (AP) – The Russian military has deployed coastal defense missile systems near the Kuril Islands, a Pacific range also claimed by Japan. The move seemed intended to underscore Moscow’s firm stance in the dispute.
The Bastion systems have been moved to Matua, a deserted volcanic island in the middle of the range. Japan claims the four 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 kilometers (270 nautical miles).
The deployment follows a series of measures taken by Russia to strengthen its military presence on the Kuril Islands.
In 2016, it stationed the Bal and Bastion coastal defense missile systems on two of the four southernmost Kuril Islands. In the years that followed, he dispatched 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 Soviet Union captured the islands in the closing days of World War II, and the dispute prevented the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their hostilities.
The 11-kilometer-long (6.8 mile) oval-shaped island where Russian missiles were deployed housed 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.
Asked about the missile deployment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia has the sovereign right to deploy its military forces wherever it deems necessary in its territory.
At the same time, he noted that Russia values relations with Japan and remains committed to efforts to negotiate a settlement of the dispute.
“We maintain a political will to continue a comprehensive dialogue with our Japanese partners in order to find means of settlement,” Peskov said on a conference call with reporters.