Japan protests after Russian research vessel enters its EEZ
Japan has asked Russia to stop sending oceanographic survey ships into its exclusive economic zones without permission after a Russian vessel was spotted north of Hokkaido.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said June 13 the Russian Embassy in Tokyo was told June 5 that “it is not allowed to conduct scientific surveys or resource explorations in Japan’s EEZ or continental shelves without prior agreement or permission.”
A Japan Coast Guard patrol boat spotted the Russian vessel towing what appeared to be wire in the waters off Cape Soya at the northern tip of Hokkaido on that day, according to Kishida, who was speaking at a news conference.
The Russian activity has particularly annoyed the Japanese government because it has occurred shortly before important events regarding the disputed Northern Territories, islands off the coast of Hokkaido seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II and claimed by Tokyo.
“It looks like Japan is playing a daily tug of war with Russia,” complained a senior administration official.
The Japanese and Russian governments have organized a first visit by aircraft to Kunashiri and Etorofu islands on June 18 for former islanders and relatives to pay their respects at their ancestors' graves.
In addition, Japan will send a team of government officials and private-sector representatives to the four islands from June 27 to July 1 to conduct preliminary research for Japanese-Russian joint economic activities that have been agreed to by the two governments.
Japan had informed Moscow that part of the area where Russia was planning oceanographic research on the western side of Sakhalin island was protruding into Japan's EEZ, but Russia started the survey anyway, according to Foreign Ministry sources.
When Japan requested the activities be halted, the Russian ship soon left the EEZ, but Moscow has not replied to Tokyo’s inquiries on the survey's objectives, the sources said.
The Abe administration hopes to break a deadlock over the decades-old territorial issue with Russia by promoting exchanges on the Northern Territories.
Japanese government officials are concerned that the latest incident could dampen plans to build mutual trust between the two nations.