Japan says Russian military drilling near its airspace

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Japan has been alerted to Russian military air drills being conducted "unusually close" to its airspace near a group of disputed islands, a top government spokesman said Thursday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the Russian military had designated an area within its own airspace as dangerous for aviation northeast of Japan's Hokkaido island as it continued drills above the Okhotsk Sea.

The top government spokesman said the zone "seems to be set unusually close" to Japanese airspace.

"The government has conveyed our concern to Russia, making inquires about the link between the drills and the flight danger zone," he said.

"The government is closely watching the situation from the national security point of view."

The disputed territories, controlled by Russia and called the Kuril islands, lie on the fringe of the Okhotsk Sea and are also claimed by Japan where they are collectively known as the Northern Territories.

The row over the Kurils, which Soviet troops seized in the closing days of World War II in 1945, has prevented the two countries from signing of a post-World War II peace treaty.

© 2011 AFP

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