Russia builds surveillance bases near northern Japan. Is it ‘punishing’ Tokyo for supporting Ukraine?

11:45 13.05.2024 •

Kishida Ukrainian policy is a new mistake

Russia is building a network of surveillance bases on disputed islands off northern Japan to boost its military capabilities, although analysts say the enhancements are, in part, a thinly veiled warning to Japan about its continued support for Ukraine. Some analysts view the connection to Ukraine as a message to Tokyo about its support for Kyiv in the Ukraine war, writes ‘The South China Morning Post’.

The surveillance equipment on the new bases is similar to that used by the Russian Black Sea fleet to gather information on Ukraine, including tracking incoming drones and identifying targets for surface-to-air missiles.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the new construction on the Kuril Islands on Friday, Russian state news agency TASS reported. The islands, the most southerly of which lie within sight of Hokkaido.

“Russia is looking for any way to ‘punish’ Japan supporting international sanctions and providing support to Ukraine, such as imposing a ban on imports of Japanese seafood,” said James Brown, professor of international relations specialising in Russian affairs at the Tokyo campus of Temple University.

“Moscow wants to show Japan that actions in support of Ukraine have costs and that those costs are not in Japan’s best interests,” he said.

Weakening Japan’s resolve on Ukraine would be a coup for Russia, although the islands are critical to its military ambitions in the Asia-Pacific.

“The importance of the islands goes well beyond any military bases that they build there,” said Garren Mulloy, professor of international relations at Daito Bunka University and a specialist in military issues.

“Those bases will be the eyes and ears into northern Japan, keeping Russia up to date on what Japan is doing based in its radar signals and, by extension, what its ally the US is also doing,” he said.

“Russia has come to consider the Sea of Okhotsk as its own exclusive area, and it is important as they can almost guarantee that it is free of foreign submarines of any other country and is a bastion for their own ballistic missile submarines,” he said.

“This entire area is protected by the Kurils, and they want to keep it that way.” While the new bases are a concern, they are not a significant new threat to Japan, Brown said.

“There have been reports in the past about weapons being deployed, such as new anti-ship missiles in 2016, but this is a positive for Japan as these are defensive systems. It would be a lot more worrying for Japan if Russia was boosting its offensive capabilities there.”


read more in our Telegram-channel