Russia has announced plans to build five military bases, including one on the Kuril Islands. The Soviet Union seized the islands from Japan at the end of World War II. The proposed bases are a small part of Russian efforts to increase and protect trade with Asian economies.
Both Japan and Russia know the importance of the Kurils. The islands are near waters commonly used by trade ships. Underground reserves of oil and natural gas increase the value of the islands. The fishing grounds are also good.
Grant Newsham studies security issues for the Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo. He admits there is “some strategic value” in holding the islands. But power and national pride also play into Russia keeping control of the former Japanese territory.
“There is really not much Japan can do,” he said about Japan regaining the islands. “I don’t think there ever has been much that they can do. Russia seems to have the better hand.”
Full article: Japan Watches Russian Military Bases on Kurils (Voice of America)