Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday the government will lodge a protest with Russia over military exercises on an islet chain off Hokkaido at the heart of a territorial dispute.
Calling the military exercises on the Northern Territories “totally unacceptable,” Abe told reporters in Yamaguchi Prefecture. “We will lodge a strong protest with Russia through the Foreign Ministry.”
A senior ministry official also said, “The Northern Territories are an inherent part of Japan’s territory, and we cannot accept the move.”
Russia announced Tuesday its military had begun exercises on the Russia-held, Japan-claimed islands.
The official said Japan has confirmed that Russia conducted drills on two of the four islands — Etorofu and Kunashiri. Tokyo had urged Moscow through diplomatic channels to cancel the drills after learning of the Russian military’s move, the official added.
The spat over the Northern Territories has prevented Tokyo and Russia from signing a peace treaty. The islands, were seized by the Soviet Union following Japan’s surrender in World War II on Aug. 15, 1945.