Tokyo: Japan has expressed concern over the Russian military`s recent drill on a disputed island off Hokkaido saying the incident cannot be overlooked, the government`s top spokesman has said.
"We cannot accept it in light of our legal stance on the Northern Territories," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku said at a news conference yesterday, referring to the drill over the weekend on Etorofu, one of four islands disputed by the two countries.
Sengoku said Japan has already lodged a protest with Russia and demanded that such a drill should not be conducted again.
Sengoku, however, said the drill would not have an impact on bilateral negotiations over the four islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories and in Russia as the Southern Kurils.
He said the problem of the Northern Territories is a long-standing one, so Japan`s protest would not have "a good or bad impact" on the negotiations.
The bilateral row over the islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry, the drill on Etorofu Island involved about 1,500 soldiers and a total of 200 military vehicles and special purpose vehicles.
A spokesperson in the military`s Far East district on Tuesday told Kyodo News that the drill conducted on Saturday and Sunday was "the largest-scale exercise held on the disputed islands since the collapse of the Soviet Union" in 1991.
The drill was part of strategic military exercises in the Russian Far East and Siberia, which began late June and will continue today.