Russia warns Japan over joint military exercises with U.S.A U.S. Navy sailor aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier watches as the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Inazuma destroyer sails in formation during a U.S.-Japan bilateral exercise on April 12. | U.S. NAVY
BY JESSE JOHNSON
Apr 26, 2022
Moscow has warned Tokyo that an expansion of joint U.S.-Japan naval exercises near Russian territory would force it to take “retaliatory measures,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov said Tuesday.
Morgulov told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that the ramped-up intensity of joint U.S.-Japan naval exercises in the area has prompted “an increase in tensions.”
“We see such actions by the Japanese side as a threat to the security of our country,” he was quoted as saying.
“We have directly warned Tokyo about this through diplomatic channels. They should be prepared for the fact that if such practices expand, Russia will take retaliatory measures in the interests of strengthening its defense capabilities,” he added.
From April 8 to 17, the Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers Kongo and Inazuma joined the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group for joint military exercises in the Sea of Japan, East China Sea and Philippine Sea. The drills included “enhanced maritime communication operations, air warfare training, and various other drills to hone in on integrated maritime operations and combat readiness,” according to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet.
Morgulov said while the military exercises in question have been joined by other nations, including NATO members, and are often portrayed as defensive, they “are potentially offensive in nature.”
The exercises came as Japan protested Moscow’s April 14 announcement that it had test-fired advanced Kalibr cruise missiles from two Russian Navy submarines in the Sea of Japan, the latest in a string of high-profile military exercises in the region by Moscow since its invasion of Ukraine in late February.
According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the Russian military has used exercises in the Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk and on or near the disputed islets to highlight its advanced weaponry and ability to operate in both the European and Asian theaters simultaneously amid the war in Ukraine.
“It’s believed that the Russian Navy intends to demonstrate the modernization of its naval power both domestically and internationally, even under the current circumstances,” Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said earlier this month, referring to the war in Ukraine.
Russian military activity in the area has ticked up in recent weeks, including on nearby disputed islands known in Japan as the Northern Territories. On March 28, Tokyo lodged a protest with Moscow through diplomatic channels over drills on the islands involving around 3,000 troops.
But Morgulov on Tuesday criticized the Japanese side for stressing that Russian “activity” in the Far East has “justified” holding military exercises on Russia’s doorstep.
Ties between Moscow and Tokyo have plunged to new lows amid the Ukraine war.
Last week, Japan followed through on two of its measures to punish Russia for the invasion, expelling diplomats and taking legislative steps to formally revoke Moscow’s favorable trading status after joining Western nations in slapping onerous economic sanctions on the country.
A top official in Moscow said the country would take "retaliatory measures" if the MSDF and U.S. Navy expanded drills near Russian territory.