Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Japan is protesting a Russian decision to hold shooting drills near the Southern Kuril Islands.
Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said the decision to hold military exercises runs counter to the Japanese position, Russian news agency TASS reported Monday.
"We are collecting information about this. Since this is linked to Russia's growing military presence on the four Northern Islands [the Southern Kuril Islands] and runs counter to our position on these islands, we expressed protest via diplomatic channels," he said.
In 2018, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to accelerate talks on the Kuril Islands based on a 1956 joint declaration. The Soviet Union had at the time agreed to return two of the disputed islands after the signing of a peace treaty. No progress has been made in 2019.
Japan may have been notified in advance of the drills, the Sankei Shimbun and Kyodo News reported.
The Russian government told Tokyo "firing drills" on Kunashir Island were to take place starting Monday and ending Saturday or Sunday, according to the reports.
Japan has repeatedly voiced opposition to Russian military activity on the disputed territory.
Japan and Russia are at odds over territorial claims over not only Kunashir Island but also neighboring Iturup and Shikotan islands. Smaller, uninhabitable islands are also claimed by Japan, according to TASS.
Japan's claim to sovereignty over the islands dates to 1855, when the country signed a treaty with Russia and took ownership of the islands.
The former Soviet Union took control of the islands by 1949.