Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev assigned a dual civilian-military role to the newly operational airport on the island of Iturop in the disputed Kurile chain.

The Iturop island is one of four seized by Soviet forces in the final days of World War II and is located off the north-east coast of Hokkaido, Japan’s biggest prefecture.

The dispute over the islands (known as the Kuriles in Russia and the NorthernTerritories in Japan) has prevented the signing of a formal peace treaty between Russia and Japan to mark their end of the WW II.

Moscow is taking a big step forward in the militarization of the Kuriles by deploying warplanes, drones and command systems at the facility. The airport has a 2.3 km runway and can handle giant aircraft.

Moscow’s decision can be seen in the context of the U.S.-built Aegis land-based missile defense system getting deployed in Japan.

The Japanese government approved a record $46 billion defense budget and funds to survey potential sites for two Aegis ground interceptor batteries.

A ship-based version of the Aegis system (made by Lockheed Martin) is already installed on Japanese warships. Japan is expected to deploy the Aegis Ashore system by 2023.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had publicly voiced the expectation that Japan should review its alliance with the USA as a condition for a peace treaty.

Russia seems to have given up hope since then that Japan can be encouraged to pursue independent foreign policies.

This has serious implications for the power dynamic in East Asia in the near term, putting Japan at a disadvantage in the Russia-China-Japan triangular diplomacy.

Moscow is also working on plans to create a new naval base in the region for submarines to strengthen its defense lines in the Sakhalin Oblast. / Indian Punchline 2018.

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