Russia Deploys Missiles, Stations Personnel on Island in Middle of Chain Claimed by Japan

Russian missiles have been deployed near the Japan-claimed Kuril Islands chain as tensions between Russia and other nations escalate, the Associated Press reported.

In a video released Thursday, Bastion coastal defense missile systems could be seen being relocated to Matua, a deserted volcanic island in the Pacific chain's middle. The Bastion can hit targets at sea at a range of up to 500 kilometers. The missile systems were not the only thing deployed to the islands; living quarters for military personnel and vehicle hangars were also transported.

The islands have a history of Russian ties. Matua was previously a territory of the Soviet Union and even housed a military base. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it reverted to being Japanese territory years after the nation set up a military base there during World War II. Japan currently claims territorial rights over the four southernmost islands in the chain, with Matua one of them.

The Kremlin had little to say about the recent deployment of missiles and personnel. During a conference call, spokesman Dmitry Peskov maintained that Russia was able to move its equipment to the Kuril Islands because they were previously its territory and it has a sovereign right to return.

"We maintain a political will to pursue a comprehensive dialogue with our Japanese partners in order to find ways of settlement," said Peskov.

The missile deployment comes as Russia is being accused by Ukraine, as well as Western countries, of planning an invasion. Russia denies the allegations.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Missiles Matua
The Russian military has deployed coastal defense missile systems on Matua Island, which is close to several islands also claimed by Japan. Above, missile launchers move to their positions on Matua on Thursday. Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Russia's Defense Ministry posted the video Thursday. It shows massive missile carriers moving ashore from amphibious landing vessels and driving along the coast of the volcanic island to take firing positions as part of drills.

The deployment followed a series of moves by Russia to beef up its military presence on the Kuril Islands.

In 2016, it stationed the Bal and the Bastion coastal defense missile systems on two of the four southernmost Kuril Islands. In the following years, it followed up by sending top-of-the-line air defense missiles systems there and setting up an airbase on the Iturup Island where fighter jets were deployed.

The dispute over the Kuril Islands has kept the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their hostilities.

Matua is oval-shaped and 11 kilometers long. The previous Soviet military base was closed amid funding shortages in the wake of the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

At the same time, Peskov noted that Russia values relations with Japan and remains committed to efforts to negotiate a settlement of the dispute.

Dmitry Peskov on Phone
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov holds a mobile phone before a press conference on September 9. Photo by Shamil Zhumatov/POOL/AFP via Getty Images