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The Russians Are Coming
by James Dunnigan
February 24, 2008

Discussion Board on this DLS topic

On February 9th, a Russian Tu-95 entered Japanese airspace, near an uninhabited island about 600 kilometers south of Tokyo. Although the Russian aircraft was in Japanese airspace for only about three minutes, the Japanese launched 22 aircraft to intercept. This force included two AWACs aircraft and twenty fighters. It's been two years since a Russian aircraft has entered Japanese airspace without permission, and I guess the Japanese reaction explains why.

Actually, the Japanese have recently been pressuring the Russians to return the Kurile islands (off northern Japan), and this has caused a lot of tension. These four islands were seized at the end of World War II, and the Russians kept them. The Kurils had been occupied by Japanese for centuries, but when Russia reached the Pacific coast in the 17th century, they began to send ships down to the Kurils. In 1875, Japan and Russia signed a treaty settling claims in the area. Japan acknowledged Russias claim to the larger Shakalin island to the north, while Russia acknowledged that the Kurils belonged to Japan. After World War II, Russia expelled the 17,000 Japanese inhabitants of the four Kuril islands Japan claims. Russians were brought in, and about 16,000 of them (including many Ukrainians, Koreans and so on) currently inhabit the islands. There's not much economic value to the Kurils, but the Russians are still hacked off at losing a war to Japan in 1905, and to Japanese soldiers occupying parts of eastern Russia after World War I. Japan and Russia had a non-aggression treaty for most of World War II. But Russia declared war on Japan on August 15th, 1945, and promptly invaded Japanese occupied northern China (Manchuria). Japanese surrendered to the United States a month later. You could say that Japan and Russia have a lot of unresolved issues.

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