Russia places Pacific fleet on ‘high alert’
Russia has switched its Pacific Navy fleet to full combat readiness mode as part of a surprise check, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced on Friday. He explained that drills would be held aimed at preventing enemy forces from landing on Sakhalin Island and the southern coast of the Kuril Islands.
Addressing Russia’s top brass, Shoigu said that the “Pacific Fleet was put on high alert at full strength” at 9am local time that same day. He added that the exercise’s objective is to enhance the “armed forces’ ability to repel aggression by a potential adversary from the ocean and sea.”
According to Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, special emphasis is being placed on ensuring the strategic nuclear submarines’ combat readiness.
Apart from preventing enemy landings, the fleet will also have to locate and destroy enemy submarines and warship strike groups, and land equipment, Shoigu noted. In the meantime, air defense units are expected to cover potentially dangerous areas.
The Russian Air Force is taking part in the maneuvers alongside the Navy.
Tokyo disputes Russian sovereignty over four of the islands in the Kuril Archipelago, which the Soviet Union captured during World War II. In the San Francisco Treaty of 1951, Japan relinquished its claims to the Kurils but later claimed that the South Kuril Islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan, were never a part of the archipelago.
Back in February, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that Moscow was not considering signing or even discussing a peace treaty with Japan anytime soon. The diplomat cited Tokyo’s hostility toward Moscow and the sanctions the country imposed on Russia in the wake of the Ukraine conflict.
The remarks came shortly after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to prioritize relaunching negotiations with the Kremlin on the issue.
Referring to the South Kuril Islands – the Northern Territories as he called them – Kishida described them as “illegally occupied” by Russia for the first time in five years.
Russia and Japan have technically remained at war with each other for almost eight decades, after failing to reach a post-WWII settlement. While Moscow did offer some compromises to Tokyo over the territories following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the two countries have nevertheless failed to resolve the issue once and for all.