National / Politics

Japan files protest over new Russian military barracks on disputed islands

Kyodo

Japan has logged a protest with Russia over the construction of military barracks on two disputed islands off Hokkaido, the top government spokesman said Wednesday.

The protest was made through a diplomatic channel in Moscow on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a news conference. The spat comes as the two countries are aiming to accelerate peace treaty talks that have been hampered by the territorial dispute over the islands.

Four barracks have been built on Etorofu and Kunashiri and 188 households plan to move into the facilities later this month, Russia’s Tass news agency has reported.

The two islands, along with Shikotan and the Habomai islet group, are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. The Soviet Union seized them following Japan’s 1945 surrender in World War II.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday that Tokyo was planning to lodge a protest with Russia.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in November to step up peace treaty talks based on a 1956 Soviet-Japan agreement that said Shikotan and Habomai would be returned to Japanese control once a peace treaty was signed.

Abe is expected to visit Russia for another summit with Putin in January.