The alleged intrusion happened when Japan was observing “Northern Territories Day,” when it holds annual rallies urging Russia to return a series of islands off eastern Hokkaido captured at the end of World War II. The islands, called the Southern Kurils in Russia, are 400km southeast of where the incident took place.
The verbal back-and-forth comes amid the rise of China and to a lesser extent Russia’s re-emergence as a major power in Asia, but does not point to an imminent military conflict, said Narushige Michishita, a security expert at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.
“That’s been encouraging them to be more assertive and more active both on the diplomatic front and military front in this region,” Michishita said.
China and Russia may also be trying to test Abe, who has a reputation as a staunch nationalist and came to office late last year pledging to defend Japan’s sovereignty and get tough with neighbors in territorial disputes.
“In the short run, this is happening I think partly in reaction to Mr Abe’s return to office,” Michishita said.