Japan slams Russian military build-up on islands

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Japan on Wednesday branded Russia's plans to deploy anti-ship cruise missiles on disputed islands off Tokyo's northern frontier "very deplorable".

Vice-foreign ministers from the two countries met in Tokyo for a regular "strategic dialogue" to discuss ties strained by the territorial row over the Kurils that has been unresolved since World War II.

The meeting came a day after Russia's Interfax news agency reported Moscow was planning to deploy additional weaponry including anti-ship cruise missiles and air defences on the disputed islands.

"Russia's military build-up on the four northern islands is totally incompatible with our country's position and it is very deplorable," Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, told a regular news briefing.

At the half-day diplomatic meeting, the Russian side said that the military build-up was aimed at "reducing the military manpower through modernisation of weaponry," Jiji news agency reported.

The chief cabinet secretary said: "We will remain consistent in asserting our country's position on the islands and strive to realise it."

Edano also said at a briefing earlier Wednesday that Japan was "watching Russian military activities in the Far East as a matter of course."

The disputed Kuril islets, called the Northern Territories by Japan, were seized by Soviet troops in the days after Japan's surrender in World War II, and the row has prevented both sides from signing a peace treaty.

The row flared up anew in November when President Dmitry Medvedev paid an unexpected visit to one of the four islands, followed by a series of trips there by other top Kremlin officials.

Tokyo and Moscow have since been engaged in a heated war of words that continued during a tense February 11 exchange in Moscow between Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

© 2011 AFP

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