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Russia to Deploy Weapons to Disputed Kurile Islands

FILE - Russian coast guard ships are moored at the southern Kurile Island of Shikotan, Sept. 14, 2015. Moscow says it will deploy new defense systems and drones to the disputed islands this year.

Russia this year will deploy some of its newest missile defense systems and drones to the Kurile islands, where Moscow and Tokyo have rival territorial claims, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Friday.

The dispute over the islands, known as the Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan, has strained the two countries’ relations since World War II, when Soviet forces occupied four islands at the southern end of the chain.

Moscow and Tokyo still have not signed a formal peace treaty because the dispute is so acrimonious.

The new weapons were part of a drive to rearm military units already deployed in the Kuriles, Shoigu said in comments broadcast on state TV.

"Coastal missile systems Bal and Bastion and new generation Eleron 3 drones will be deployed there this year," he said at a Defense Ministry meeting.

The Bastion is a mobile defense system armed with two anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 300 km (188 miles). It has also been deployed in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The Bal anti-ship missile has a similar range.

Shoigu announced in October that Russia would build a military base on the Kurile islands.