KURIL ISLANDS, Russia – The four Russian islands in the Kurilish archipelago, claimed by Japan, would be the ideal places to deploy North American missiles, reports the Japan Business Press (JBP), noting that the installation of air defense systems on the islands would strengthen US defense and Japan against ballistic missiles from North Korea.
The publication states that in order to increase the chances of knocking down a ballistic missile, it needs to be attacked in the initial stage after its launch – even before the warheads are separated. Therefore, the most suitable place for the positioning is the Russian island of Iturup.
According to the JBP, Iturup Island would need to be integrated with the US anti-aircraft defense system to combat not only North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles but also to protect Europe from attacks from Iran.
Japan refuses to consider the four Russian islands as part of the Kurilian archipelago and admits that Russia, having these islands as part of its territory, controls the Strait of Vries, which gives access to the high seas.
“If Russia hand over the four islands, or even just three, with the exception of Iturup, it is likely that Japan and the US will block the Strait of Vries,” the issue predicts.
In addition, the JBP assumes that the US anti-aircraft defense systems deployed on these islands would allow for faster tracking of Russian missile launches from the Okhotsk Sea.
“For Russia, the Okhotsk Sea is a sacred area of its strategic submarines, so this region is patrolled by numerous ships and missiles are deployed on the Kuril Islands. However, if Japanese-American forces appear on the islands, these will be delivered [to Tokyo], there will be a breach in the line of defense that protects the submarines,” writes the author of the article.
The paper also emphasizes that it is unlikely that Moscow would want to deliver the islands to Tokyo, as they have an extremely important military value for Russia. Therefore, the Japanese diplomats who are negotiating this issue should be well aware of what these islands mean for Moscow and, on that basis, establish a dialogue.
Russia and Japan failed to reach a peace settlement after the end of World War II, mainly due to the dispute over the Kuril Islands, now ruled by Moscow, which considers them an inalienable part of the country’s territory.
In 1956, the Soviet Union and Japan signed a Joint Declaration, in which Moscow agreed to consider transferring Habomai and Shikotan following the completion of peace – the fate of Kunashir and Iturup would not be affected. The Soviet government hoped the document would end the dispute, but Japan saw it as only part of the solution to the problem. Subsequent negotiations were not successful.
In November 2018, after the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Singapore, the two parties announced an acceleration in the negotiation process of the peace treaty and of the Kurilians based on the 1956 declaration signed by Japan and USSR.
Negotiations are complicated by the fact that Tokyo supports sanctions against Russia.