February 2, 2023

Russia’s threat to retaliate against US-Japan naval exercises shows it’s getting jumpy, analysts say

4 min read

The threat comes only from the latest salvo from Moscow, angered by Japan’s support for Ukraine and its growing ties with NATO countries, and the long-running dispute over sovereignty over the islands occupied by Soviet forces. It is hot The end of World War II.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgolov said Tuesday that the US-Japan naval exercises were “potentially aggressive,” according to a report in Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

“We see such measures by the Japanese side as a threat to the security of our country,” Morgolov said. “If such methods are expanded, Russia will retaliate in the interest of strengthening its defense capabilities.”

However, he did not specify what US-Japan exercises he was talking about – nor did he specify what form Russia’s response might take.

Japan has not yet responded to Morgolov’s remarks and has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

The U.S. and Japanese navies last week held joint exercises in the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea, led by the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group.

Earlier this month, Abraham Lincoln led a similar joint exercise in the Sea of ​​Japan, on which Russia has a long coastline.

According to the US Navy, the United States and Japan routinely conduct joint naval exercises in the Indo-Pacific region to “maintain stability in the free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

A long World War II conflict

Tensions are rising between Tokyo and Moscow over Japan’s support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor. Dispute between Japan and Russia over island sovereignty In northern Japan, which was occupied by Soviet forces after Japan surrendered to Allied forces at the end of World War II.

Japan on Friday called Russia’s “illegal occupation” of four disputed islands, the first such use in two decades.

In its annual diplomatic report The Japanese Foreign Ministry, released on Friday, also referred to the islands, which Russia calls South Krill, as Japan’s “northern territories.”

According to the report, Japan views the islands as “Japanese territories with Japanese sovereign rights, but currently Russian occupation is illegal.”

While the conflict has been going on for decades, Japan’s support for Ukraine has heated up relations between Moscow and Tokyo.

On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to provide Ukraine with food and medicine, additional funding, small drones and protective face masks, according to a statement issued by the country’s Foreign Ministry.

Kashida’s announcement came after talking to him. President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky For the fourth time this year.

Earlier this month, Japan deported eight Russian diplomats and officials over the war in Ukraine.

Japan’s measures ‘predictable and transparent’

Analysts say Moscow is jumping on the bandwagon and is disappointing Japan.

James DJ Brown, associate professor of political science at Temple University in Tokyo, said, “Japan and the United States have done nothing out of the ordinary … there is nothing that really reflects this level of reaction. . “

US Marines participate in a joint amphibious exercise with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Amphibious Rapid Deployment Unit at a training site near Mount Fuji in central Japan on March 23.

Echoing those views, Drew Thompson, a senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, said increasing military cooperation with the United States was a wise thing for Tokyo.

“Japan is slowly becoming aware of the security threats within its borders, and it is doing so in a predictable and transparent manner, in accordance with democracy,” Thompson said.

Hailey Sims, a spokesman for the 7th US Navy based in CMDR Japan, described the joint exercises in the Sea of ​​Japan in early April as “routine bilateral operations”.

“Our training demonstrates the strength of our bilateral partnership and enhances the reputation of traditional deterrence,” Sims said.

But Russia has a different point of view.

“I think it’s really a reflection of the Russian side’s increasing leap, their tendency now to see the actions around them as always being as aggressive as possible,” Brown said.

He said increasing Japanese cooperation with NATO allies, including Britain and France, with countries with which Russia has disputes in Europe, increases tensions in the Pacific.

“One thing the Russians really dislike is that Japan has been strengthening cooperation with countries other than the United States in recent years,” Brown said.

Russian provocation.

Analysts say Russia has been tilting its forces around Japan for the past few years.

The last few months have seen a number of Russian provocations, including military exercises on the disputed islands and tests of submarine-launched cruise missiles in the Sea of ​​Japan, said Staro Mori, a professor of contemporary international politics at Kiev University in Japan.

Analysis: Japan's tough stance on Russia is actually about China.

“Russia is stepping up its military activities around Japan in order to demonstrate its capability even during the invasion of Ukraine in the Far East,” Mori said.

Thomson says Russian threats have further retreated, including cooperation with China over the past several years in flights of nuclear-capable Russian bombers near Japanese airspace and in aviation and naval exercises, including A joint Russian-Chinese naval voyage of Japan The main island of Honshu in 2021.

“This is a response to Japan’s dynamics, which began with the strengthening of military cooperation between Russia and China,” Thomson said.

“This is a shift in Japan’s defense planning and political resources, rather than a direct response to these latest Russian threats,” he said. “If anything, it confirms Japan’s strategy to increase its ability to prevent the use of military force against it.”

CNN’s George Engels contributed to this article.

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