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Japan to closely watch Russia's military activity on south Kurils

RIA Novosti

06:42 15/02/2011 TOKYO, February 15 (RIA Novosti) - Japan plans to track Russia's military presence on the south Kuril Islands, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Tuesday.

"There's the tendency of Russia boosting its military activity [on south Kurils]. We need to closely watch this," he told journalists in Tokyo.

The sparsely populated islands in the Kuril chain between Japan's northern island of Hokkaido and Russia's Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula were annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II but are still claimed by Japan.

The dispute over the islands, called the Northern Territories in Japan, has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a formal peace treaty.

Russia will increase its military presence on the disputed islands, President Dmitry Medvedev said on February 9, a day after Japan's premier demanded their return at a rally.

Speaking during a rally in Tokyo on February 8, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan called Medvedev's visit to the islands last November an "inexcusable rudeness," sparking an angry response from Moscow.

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