Author: Vasily Golovnin

(By special correspondent Vasily Golovnin in Tokyo, The New Times. The New Times, Nov. 28, 2016, p. 10. Complete text:) Initial reports that Bal and Bastion mobile surface-to-ship missile systems had been deployed in the Southern Kurile Islands appeared in mid-November, exactly one month before [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin’s visit to Tokyo, scheduled for Dec. 15 - 16. The Japanese are preparing painstakingly for the visit. According to a source close to [Japanese] Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, "now there is a chance to really make headway on signing a peace treaty," which the two countries have lacked since World War II ended in 1945. The main stumbling block has been the unresolved issue of the Northern Territories, as the Japanese call the four Southern Kurile Islands that are part of Russia - Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai - over which they hope to regain sovereignty. "The negotiations are proceeding with difficulty, but they really are in progress," the Japanese source said, adding: "When diplomats have to talk amid reports of Russia stationing new weapons near our borders, some confusion arises."

To a large extent, the appearance of missiles on the Kurile Islands is no fluke. Tokyo is aware of Moscow’s intention to turn the two largest of the four islands, Iturup and Kunashir (where the Bal and Bastion systems are deployed), into a powerful naval base. There has been talk of this for the last five years. Moreover, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in March 2016 that the new weapons would be delivered to the islands (which already have Tor-M2U surface-to-air missile systems) before the year is out. But [the Japanese] clearly did not expect the missiles to be deployed literally a month before Putin’s visit. On Nov. 24, an official representative of the Japanese government said that the Bal and Bastion systems would "in no way affect" Putin’s visit. The same day, an informed government ...

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