Ahead of bilateral meeting between Russian president and Japanese premier in Vladivostok on Thursday, reports have emerged that Moscow has deployed new missile systems 'near' islands which are claimed by Japan in the Pacific Ocean.
Russia has moved missile defense systems from Kamchatka Peninsula to northern portion of the Kuril Islands chain off Japan’s Hokkaido province, daily Japan Times reported.
Quoting a 2018 defense document, the report claimed that Russia has deployed land-to-ship missile system called the 'Bastion' on the Paramushir and Matua islands on Kuril Islands chain which includes four Japan-claimed islands.
Japan Times, quoting a Russian government official, reported that missile systems has been deployed on the two islands: 'They have already been moved and are now being prepared for operation.'
Over a question about the reports regarding possible deployment of Bastion systems on the Kuril Islands, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov in Moscow said on Tuesday that this 'question is not on the agenda' of the Russian-Japanese talks regarding the peace treaty.
'I do not know the plans for our military development, but it has nothing to do with the negotiations that are underway on the topic of a peace treaty. We do not discuss the issues of Russian military development [at these talks],' he said.
The missile system has a range of over 300 kilometers.
Kuril Islands separate the Sea of Okhotsk from the north Pacific Ocean.
'It [missiles deployment] also means a defensive line stretching from the Kamchatka Peninsula to Hokkaido, which falls within the range of the missile defense systems,' the report said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Vladivostok in Russia’s far east on the sidelines of an economic forum for talks on postwar peace treaty.
A vessel-detection radio base and an air fleet would also be installed on Matua islands, the report added.
The move comes amid plans of the United States which also seeks to deploy intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region. The decision is being taken after Washington rolled back the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia last month.
Russia calls the held-islands as Southern Kurils while Japan claims their ownership and calls them Northern Territories.
Last November, Abe and Putin had agreed to step up talks based on a 1956-agreement that mentioned the handover by the then-Soviet Union of Shikotan and Habomai to Japan once a peace treaty was signed.
But Russia has said that the possibility of U.S. military expansion and Tokyo’s plan to deploy U.S.-developed missile defense system would made it difficult for Russia to conclude such a treaty.
By Riyaz ul Khaliq and Elena Teslova in Moscow