Russia may deploy rockets on disputed islands: report

MOSCOW Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:34am EST

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will send new air defense systems, possibly including S-400 rockets, to islands at the center of a territorial dispute with Japan, RIA news reported on Tuesday, citing a General Staff source.

Russia, which occupied the four islands off Japan at the end of World War Two, has pressed its claim to the territory with plans to boost investment and its military presence.

"The division will be given a brigade of air defense troops," RIA quoted the General Staff source as saying.

The air defense systems will consist of short and long-range weapons, possibly including the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system, he said.

Interfax news agency quoted a General Staff source as denying the report. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense refused to confirm or deny it.

The Russian-made S-400 can intercept and destroy airborne targets at a distance of up to 400 km (250 miles), RIA has reported, meaning they could hit aircraft, cruise missiles or ballistic missiles over Japan.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last week Moscow would provide the islands with sufficient weaponry to ensure their security as a part of Russia's sovereign territory.

Moscow has an artillery division on one of the islands, but its aging infrastructure is in need of an overhaul.

Medvedev sparked debate over the islands last year when he became the first Russian president to visit the archipelago, known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.

Two other senior government officials, including the Defense Minister, have paid visits to the islands over the past months. Conflicting claims have prevented Moscow and Tokyo from concluding a peace treaty.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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Comments (2)
Ralphooo wrote:
Is there a difference between a rocket and a missile?

Feb 15, 2011 7:36am EST  --  Report as abuse
Pendragon wrote:
One wonders what Moscow’s top policy makers have in mind if, as reported, they plan to install short and long range surface-to-air missiles in the bitterly-contested Kurile Islands/Northern Territories just off Hokkaido. It almost seems that Russia is going out of its way to wantonly provoke and anger Japan’s government and people.

The disputed Island chain has been a large obstacle to cordial Russo-Japanese relations since it was seized by the then Soviet Union in the final days of World War II. The 65 year old dispute has been heightened by the natural resources of the region – consisting of rich fishing grounds and possibly even of deposits of natural gas, oil, gold and silver.

Recent high level diplomacy on both sides has failed to make meaningful headway. Commenting on Russian President Dimitry Medvedev’s unprecedented visit to Kunashiri in November 2010, Prime Minister Naoto Kan early in February 2011 told a Tokyo rally – held to demand the return of the Islands – that Medvedev’s visit was an “unforgivable outrage.” On Friday 11 February 2011 at a two hour meeting in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara that his visit coincided with “a series of completely unacceptable actions”, prompting Maehara to abruptly reject the proposed formation of a joint commission to resolve the issue of Island ownership. The top level meeting, therefore, was a diplomatic ‘train smash.’

Japan is now Russia’s third largest trading partner after Germany and China, with two-way trade amounting to US$30 billion in 2008 alone. Nonetheless, the fate of the disputed Islands, which raises fervent nationalist passions in both countries, has never moved beyond the convoluted and protracted negotiations of 1956 – when the then Soviet Union eventually offered to return two of the four Islands and when Japan adamantly insisted upon the return of all four. There has been no movement by either side since then, meaning that no formal peace treaty officially ending Russo-Japanese hostilities has ever been signed.

Japan has always maintained that it has legally and justly owned the four Islands since the signing of the 1855 Treaty of Shimoda; whereas Russia has always claimed that, in 1945, it merely re-captured territory which had perpetually been a traditional part of its sovereign homeland.

The placing of Russian missiles on the Islands will do nothing to calm the situation. Rather, if carried out, such actions will infuriate Japan and possibly initiate some as yet unclear though highly likely form of retaliation. Moscow is being clumsy and heavy handed and Tokyo will not tolerate such maladroit behaviour. There is little Japan can do militarily – being as it is a pacifist power – but it could severely cut back its imports of specially-targeted Russian commodities, in particular, oil. Revenue loss can be just as potent a weapon as an S-400 missile.

Feb 16, 2011 8:50am EST  --  Report as abuse
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