The Real Reason Russia Deployed Advanced Coastal Defense Weapons to the Kurils


 Bastion coastal defense missile system during a rehearsal of the military parade

    On Tuesday, the official newspaper of the Russian Pacific Fleet confirmed that the Bal and Bastion anti-ship missile systems had been deployed to the Kuril Islands. Commentators rushed to ask what effect this will have on Russian-Japanese relations. Sputnik spoke to several respected Russian military and geopolitics experts to find out.

   Earlier this week, Boyevaya Vakhta, the official newspaper of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, confirmed that Moscow had deployed the 3K60 Bal and K-300P Bastion to the southern Kuril Islands of Iturup and Kunashir earlier this year, with one Bastion system already on active combat duty, and a second being prepared for deployment.

   It was not revealed exactly when the systems had been made operational, but Moscow had made it known that it planned to deploy advanced defensive systems to the region since at least 2011, as part of an effort to create a unified system of coastal defenses stretching from Vladivostok to the Russian Arctic.

   The Bal, in service since the early 2000s, is an advanced subsonic anti-ship missile meant to defend territorial waters, naval bases and other coastal facilities and infrastructure, and is capable of doing so any time day or night and in adverse weather conditions. Its missiles are capable of hitting targets up to 120 km away, with the system, which can be deployed for battle in less than 10 minutes, able to launch up to 32 missiles within an interval of three seconds.

   The Bastion, literally Russia’s newest mobile anti-ship missile system, is equipped with the P-800 Oniks, a supersonic anti-ship missile with a 300 km range meant to engage surface ships both large and small. The Bastion can be deployed in under five minutes, firing its missiles within a 2-5 second interval.

   As might be expected, news of the deployment of the advanced weapons, reported just weeks ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long-awaited visit to Japan next month, has led to questions about what effect the systems’ deployment will have on Moscow-Tokyo relations. The Kuril Islands are the subject of a long-standing territorial dispute between the two countries. The dispute has effectively prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace treaty over 70 years after the conclusion of the Second World War.

   Asked to comment on the deployment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov stressed that it will “in no way affect” the current trajectory of bilateral relations between the two countries. For his part, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also noted that the deployment will not influence bilateral talks on the peace treaty, nor preparations for Putin’s visit to Japan.

   Nevertheless, some Japanese and Russian media have said on the deployment of the systems may have been inappropriate, in light of the Russian leader’s upcoming visit to Japan. However, according to Vasily Kashin, a senior expert at CAST, a Moscow-based defense industry think tank, this is a short-sighted view.

   Speaking to Sputnik, Kashin explained that the deployment of such weapons “is a planned process aimed at avoiding the reduction of the troop strength on the islands. Japan has long viewed Russia as a potential enemy. At the same time, we are now observing a very positive trend in relations. However, the southern Kuril Islands are still a disputed territory, which means that military units remain there. As planned, new generations of equipment are reequipping all units located on the Southern Kurils.” © Photo: Lev Rodionov

   Furthermore, Valery Kistanov, the head of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Far Eastern Studies, says that the deployment goes far beyond Russian-Japanese relations, and is part of Moscow’s response to the security situation in Northeast Asia as a whole.

    “There,” Kistanov recalled, “we are seeing an arms race, growing tensions, exacerbated by a series of bilateral disputes, including territorial ones.”

    The analyst recalled for example that “the nuclear testing conducted by North Korea serves an excuse for increased military cooperation between the so-called US-South Korea-Japan [security] triangle. Talks are already being held to make it so that in addition to South Korea, the US could place its THAAD anti-missile systems on Japanese territory.” Accordingly, he stressed, “these US plans are the main motivation for Russia’s effort to strengthen its defensive capabilities in the Far East.”

   Finally, Viktor Pavlyatenko, senior fellow at the Center for Japanese Studies, told Sputnik that there is little reason for Asian powers, Japan included, to be concerned about Bastion and Bal’s deployment, given that such plans had been made public years beforehand.

    “Why was such a fuss raised about this just now?” the expert asked. “After all, the decision on improving the security of our eastern borders was taken a year ago, and was officially announced at that time. And the deployment of coastal missile systems to the islands is part of an overall strategy of rearmament of the Russian military and the strengthening of its defensive capabilities,” adopted even earlier, in 2011. Before that, “since the 1990s and to the present, practically no advanced weapons were deployed on the islands.”

   At the same time, Pavlyatenko stressed, “the missile systems in question are defensive; they cannot be converted into offensive weapons.”

   Ultimately, the analyst admitted that “the intention to strengthen the border is an indication of the desire to strengthen [Russia’s] sovereignty” over the islands. “But this does not mean that we cannot engage in dialogue with Japan in the framework of international agreements, including the 1956 Joint Declaration between the Soviet Union and Japan.”

   Earlier this week, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru, President Putin said that the lack of a peace treaty between Moscow and Tokyo was a major roadblock in relations – a “relic of the past preventing us from moving forward.” Putin noted that efforts toward a peace treaty “should be supported at all cost.” But negotiation and compromise are not synonyms for one-sided territorial concessions, and the Bal and Bastion’s deployment seems to be a clear indication of Moscow’s firm position on the issue.

Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov met Japan’s extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to Russia Toyohisa Kozuki



Today Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov has met Japan’s extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador to Russia Toyohisa Kozuki.

In the course of the talks, an exchange of views on the situation on the Korean peninsula and in the Asian-Pacific Region.

Anatoly Antonov stressed the importance of political and diplomatic solution of the situation on the Korean peninsula for prevention of escalation of tension in the North-East Asia and paid attention to the negative influence of deployment of the US Ballistic Missile Defence elements on the situation in the Asian-Pacific Region.

The parties also discussed the level of military connections between both countries. They noted joint exercises, consultations of the General Staffs, interactions of the Navy forces. The future directions of interaction in multidimensional formats were defined.

Deputy Defence Minister told about the humanitarian operation in Aleppo and suggested to the colleagues from the Japanese defence department joining it.

Anatoly Antonov informed the Japanese ambassador concerning the unannounced combat readiness inspection held upon the decision of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin.

He stressed that the exercises are held in strict compliance with all the international obligations of Russia.

The meeting was held in a friendly atmosphere.

South China Sea Time Bomb: Beijing Sets “Red Line” on Japan-US Joint Operations

In this April 26, 2012 file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese navy's missile destroyer DDG-112 Harbin fires a shell during the China-Russia joint naval exercise in the Yellow Sea


The Chinese Ambassador to Japan warned that Beijing would not concede on the demand or relinquish their sovereignty over the South China Sea even if it meant the two countries went to war.

On Saturday, diplomatic sources confirmed that China had issued a severe warning to Tokyo in late June demanding that Japan refrain from dispatching Self-Defense Forces to join US operations testing the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.Japan will “cross a red line” if SDF vessels take part in the freedom of navigation operations, Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua conveyed to Tokyo at the time. Cheng threatened military action if Japan failed to comply with the ultimatum.

The warning came two weeks prior to The Hague international arbitration court’s adverse ruling deeming the waters and territory that the Chinese people had historically viewed as their own were to be stripped of their control and that Beijing must immediately remove itself from the disputed territory.

China immediately denounced the ruling, on both substantive and procedural grounds, vowing not to comply with the court’s ruling. The proceedings were triggered unilaterally by the Philippines, a move supported by the United States, without China submitting itself to the authority of the court’s ruling. The court not only lacked requisite jurisdiction over the matter, but many legal scholars interpreting the Law of the Sea Treaty believe that China has the strongest claim based on its longstanding control of the disputed area.

Beijing has become irate over international pressure calling for it to comply with the court order in the name of international law, which China views the ruling itself violates, coming predominantly from regional competitors Japan and Australia as well as from the United States.

Those tensions risk spilling over with a Chinese state-run newspaper already issuing a warning to Australia that it would be the “ideal target for a strike” and repeated warnings to Japan to avoid intervening. Further complicating tensions, Reuters misreported that Vietnam had installed rocket launchers pointing at Chinese military assets over the territorial dispute leading China’s press to caution Hanoi to remember the consequence of the last-time the two countries went to war in 1979.

While Tokyo continues to assert pressure on Beijing over the arbitration ruling, despite not itself being a party to the dispute, a Japan Times editorial left unsigned sought to offer reassurance saying that “the Japanese government has no plans to join the freedom of navigation operations, in which the United States since October has sent warships near artificial islands that China has built in the South China Sea.”

The statement of measured and reserve action comes after revelations that Chinese Ambassador Cheng Yonghua told Japan explicitly not to take part in “joint military actions with the US forces that is aimed at excluding China in the South China Sea” and stating that China “will not concede on sovereignty issues and is not afraid of military provocations.”

The stakes for Beijing are high in the South China Sea where over 40% of the world’s shipborne trade transits through each day. The waters also are home to one of the world’s largest deep-sea oil and natural gas deposits and serves a critical function for stretching China’s regional military reach.

Japan Bolsters the Lethality of its F-15 Fighter Jets Amid Tensions With China

Japan's F-15 aircrafts

As Japan prepares to officially announce its record-high $51.7 billion military budget proposal, it seeks to double the payload of its 200 F-15 jet fighters in an attempt to cool down Chinese military presence near southern Japanese islands.

Japanese military budget for fiscal year 2017, which will end in March 2018, includes a number of costly measures aimed to significantly bolster Japanese military amid rising tensions in South China Sea in particular and in the region in general.

Among other things, Japan seeks to boost weapon capacity of their 200 US-made F-15 jet fighters, by doubling the amount of air-to-air missiles they carry, from 8 to 16 per plane.

The Japanese Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) is also going to extend the planes’ lifespan by starting a massive repair program for damaged planes.

The proposed military program, which will be officially introduced later this month, reportedly includes the purchase of an undisclosed number of controversial Lockheed Martin F-35 jet fighters and development of unmanned drone fighter jet, which is set to be put in operation by year 2037.

The massive increase in military appropriations out of Tokyo may be warranted in response to Beijing’s growing animosity towards its longstanding regional rival including recent air contact between Chinese and Japanese warplanes over the East China Sea.

The two countries are embroiled in a territorial dispute regarding the Senkaku (known by China as Diaoyu) Islands with both China and Japan holding overlapping claims. The West recognizes Japan’s control of the Senkaku Islands, a reality that may be increasingly unfavorable to China in light of the international pressure mounted on Beijing over the separate territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Japan has inflamed historical tensions by beckoning China to give up its claim to the South China Sea, which includes islands and a valuable swath of water through which 40% of the world’s shipborne trade transits each day, despite the fact that Tokyo itself is not a party to that dispute. China has repeatedly warned of war against Japan if it should undertake joint naval operations with the US in the contested area.

Japan’s ‘Conciliatory’ Defense White Paper Seeks Harmony With Moscow and Beijing

In this July 29, 2014 photo, members of a Japan Self-Defense Forces' honor guard prepare to be inspected by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Japan’s recent white paper on defense policy was slammed in Beijing, but actually Tokyo does not appear to see China, or Russia, as a direct threat to its security, Kristina Voda from Russia’s Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations told Sputnik.

On August 2 Japan’s Defense Ministry released its annual Defense White Paper, in which it revealed concerns about its neighbors North Korea, China and even Russia.The 484-page report refers to North Korea’s missile program as the key challenge to Japan’s security.

“Even assuming that North Korea exaggerates claiming to achieve range ability for ballistic missiles and to obtain small nuclear charge for a warhead capable of hitting the United States, it is still possible that military provocations in the region will increase, so our country is concerned over the situation,” the white paper said.

The following day, South Korea reported that Pyongyang had fired two medium-range ballistic missiles, one of which was fired into the Sea of Japan.

Japan’s defense paper received a fierce reaction in Beijing, after it also criticized China’s activities in the South China Sea and alleged that Beijing is unwilling to compromise with other countries in the region.

Japan wrote that Beijing “continues to act in an assertive manner,” and is “determined to accomplish its unilateral demands without compromise,” in the South and East China Seas.Tokyo thinks that Beijing’s stance could result in “unintended consequences.”

China expressed “strong dissatisfaction with and resolute opposition against” the report, which it said “hypes up the East and South China Sea issues.”

Last month China rejected the verdict of The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, which ruled against China and in favor of the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute. Rather than international arbitration, Beijing has called for the dispute to be resolved through bilateral negotiations between the parties involved.

The South China Sea is a highly-contested region through which nearly $5 trillion in international trade passes annually. In addition to China and the Philippines, overlapping claims have also been made by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei.

In the East China Sea, Japan and China are locked in a territorial dispute over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan but are claimed by China; in Chinese they are called Diaoyu Dao.

A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (top), Minamikojima (bottom) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea (File)
© REUTERS/ Kyodo
A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (top), Minamikojima (bottom) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea (File)

Kristina Voda, an expert from Russia’s Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), told Sputnik that while the paper is critical of China, it calls for dialogue with Beijing in order to solve pressing international issues.

“If the white paper calls North Korea a serious, destabilizing factor for security, not only for Japan but for the whole region and the international community, China is not directly called a threat,” Voda explained.

“It just says that China’s actions are a cause for concern,” and specifically addresses the disputes in the East and South China Seas, she said.

“However, the conclusion of the white paper sounds quite conciliatory. Yes, it says that (these actions) cause concern for regional and global security. However, to address these concerns (the report says) it is necessary to strive for more openness, strengthen mutual understanding and develop dialogue in all areas.”

“The white paper is not a unilateral reference to threats from China, but an attempt to encourage China to engage in dialogue. Let’s remember that Shinzo Abe thinks it is necessary to create a ‘hot line’ to prevent dangerous activities in the sea,” Voda said.

The Chinese navy is currently carrying out large-scale military exercises in the East China Sea, and in September China and Russia will begin joint military exercises in the South China Sea.

Voda said that the white paper does not perceive Russia as a threat, but makes several remarks about its recent military activities, including Syria and recent exercises in the Kuril Islands, to the north of Japan. Japan makes territorial claims to three of the southern Kuril Islands.The white paper remarks that in a multipolar world, Russia is “gradually increasing” its role in global politics, and that its assistance in Syrian anti-terrorism operations is evidence of progress in Moscow’s military reforms.

However, Voda said that the white paper does not see Moscow as a threat, and that “Russia is not described in the same way as North Korea or China.”

“Russia hasn’t been mentioned as a threat in Japan’s white paper for a long time.”

Russian Troops to Join 9 Int’l Drills in 2016, Build High-Tech Ranges

Exercises with China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, as well as three drills with India, are planned for 2016.


Exercises with China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, as well as three drills with India, are planned for 2016.

 Russian Eastern Military   District (EMD) troops will take part in nine international exercises in 2016, the district commander said Friday.

“The next year will be more abundant in terms of international military cooperation, troops are planned to take part in nine exercises,” Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin said at a military council session.

Surovikin listed exercises with China, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, as well as three drills with India, as planned for 2016. This year, the commander said EMD servicemen took part in three drills, with one planned next month.Announcing other developments for 2016, the EMD commander said seven state-of-the-art training grounds were planned to be built across four eastern regions, adding that a network of 33 training areas is expected be built by 2020.

Russia is currently undergoing a $325-billion rearmament program to achieve a 70-percent modernization of its military by 2020.

Russia’s Eastern District Receives Over 850 Military Equipment in 2015

Russia’s Eastern Military District has received over 850 units of military equipment this year, with plans to continue rearmament on pace in 2016, the district commander said.

“An unprecedented re-equipment of military units to new military systems and equipment has continued in 2015. To date, over 850 units of modern military equipment have been delivered to the forces.”

Surovikin listed the Borey-class Alexander Nevsky strategic missile nuclear submarine, the Iskander-M mobile short-range ballistic missile system, S-400 Triumf missile defense systems, Verba man-portable air-defense systems and Tornado-G rocket launchers, T-72B3 battle tanks, electronic warfare and communication systems, as well as drones — as some of the equipment delivered this year.Russia is currently undergoing a $325-billion rearmament program to achieve a 70-percent modernization of its military by 2020.

The EMD commander stressed that rearmament would continue on pace next year.