Russia deploys coastal missile system on island chain near Japan

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has deployed its Bastion coastal missile defense system to a remote part of the Kuril island chain in the Pacific near Japan, the Ministry of Defense’s Zvezda TV channel said on Thursday.

Japan lays claim to the Russian-held southern Kuril islands that Tokyo calls the Northern Territories, a territorial row that dates back to the end of World War Two when Soviet troops seized them from Japan.

The dispute has prevented them signing a formal peace treaty.

Russia used large landing ships to deliver equipment and personnel to the remote Matua island in the central part of the island chain, Zvezda said.

Russia is trying to beef up its military infrastructure on the island chain, the Ministry of Defense announced in August.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Anton Kolodyazhnyy; editing by Barbara Lewis)


NATO calls on Russia to destroy new missile, warns of response

FILE PHOTO: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks to the media during the NATO Foreign Minister's Meeting at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO urged Russia on Tuesday to destroy a new missile before an August deadline and save a treaty that keeps land-based nuclear warheads out of Europe or face a more determined alliance response in the region.

NATO defense ministers will discuss on Wednesday their next steps if Moscow keeps the missile system that the United States says would allow short-notice nuclear attacks on Europe and break the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

“We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference. “We will need to respond,” Stoltenberg said.

He declined to go into more details. But diplomats said defense ministers will consider more flights over Europe by U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear warheads, more military training and the repositioning U.S. sea-based missiles.

The United States and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Moscow has so far refused to do. It denies any violations of the INF treaty, accusing Washington of seeking an arms race.

Without a deal, the United States has said it will withdraw from the INF treaty on Aug. 2, removing constraints on its own ability to develop nuclear-capable, medium-range missiles.

The dispute has deepened a fissure in East-West ties that severely deteriorated after Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its involvement in Syria.


Russia warned on Monday of a stand-off comparable to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis if the United States were to deploy land-based missile systems near Russia’s borders, but Stoltenberg said there were no such plans.

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters that at present, Washington was only considering conventional, not nuclear weapons, in any possible response.

“All options are on the table but we are looking at conventional systems, that’s important for our European allies to know,” she said.

European allies are also worried about the deployment of U.S. nuclear missiles in Europe, as happened in the 1980s, and being caught up in nuclear competition between Moscow and Washington.

The INF treaty, negotiated by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ratified by the U.S. Senate, eliminated the medium-range missile arsenals of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers and reduced their ability to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

The treaty bans land-based missiles with a range between 500 km and 5,500km (300-3400 miles).

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

U.S. lobbies China again on missile defence system

Top Army People from US and China saluting

BEIJING (Reuters) – A decision by the United States and South Korea to deploy an advanced anti-missile defence system is aimed at defending against North Korea’s missile threat and does not threaten China, a senior U.S. officer said in Beijing on Tuesday.

The United States has repeatedly tried to rebuff anger from China about Seoul’s move to host a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) unit with the U.S. military.

Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, told his People’s Liberation Army counterpart Li Zuocheng that THAAD was a defensive measure, the U.S. Army said in a statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

THAAD “is a defensive measure to protect South Koreans and Americans from the North Korean ballistic missile threat and is not a threat in any way to China”, the statement paraphrased Milley as saying.

South Korea has said, too, that the move is purely to counter growing missile threats from the North and was not intended to target China, but Beijing has protested it would destabilise the regional security balance.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed up with a satellite launch and a string of test launches of missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

China and the United States have been at odds over the disputed South China Sea as well.

Beijing has been upset with U.S. freedom of navigation patrols in the waters there, and the United States has expressed concern about Chinese aircraft and ships operating in a dangerous manner close to U.S. forces.

Milley said the United States wants to maintain open channels of communications with China’s military to “reduce the risk of crisis or miscalculation and candidly address differences”, the statement said.

Milley “reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to adhere to international rules and standards and encouraged the Chinese to do the same as a way to reduce regional tensions”.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.

China’s Defence Ministry quoted Li as saying that THAAD, the South China Sea and Taiwan were all issues Beijing hoped Washington would pay attention to and “handle appropriately”.

China “hopes both militaries can increase cooperation, appropriately handle disputes and manage and control risks”, the statement paraphrased Li as saying.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie and Paul Tait)

South Koreans shave heads to protest U.S. missile defense system

Seongju residents get their heads shaved during a protest against the government's decision to place a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile

By Minwoo Park

SEONGJU, South Korea (Reuters) – About 900 South Koreans shaved their heads on Monday to protest against a government decision to place a missile defense system designed to counter North Korean missile threats, in the southeastern county of Seongju.

Tension has run high since North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and followed up with a satellite launch and a string of test launches of missiles.

South Korea announced in July that a U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense unit would be deployed in Seonjgu, but residents have protested, citing safety fears over the system’s sophisticated radar and its potential to be a wartime target.

The plan has also angered China and prompted a North Korean warning of retaliation.

Seongju residents, many of them farmers cultivating a melon variety that has brought the county domestic fame, sat in somber silence as they had their heads shaved while a protest leader led a crowd in chants of “No THAAD!”

“THAAD should not be deployed at all, not just in Seongju, but anywhere in South Korea,” said Yoo Ji-won, a 63-year-old melon farmer. “We residents gathered here and shaved heads to demonstrate against its deployment.”

As many as 908 people joined in the head-shaving part of the protest, organizers said.

“This is the most powerful way of displaying protest,” protest leader Kim An-soo said. “We cannot protest any bigger”.

The South Korean defense ministry has vowed to minimize any impact from THAAD on residents and the environment.

“THAAD is a self-defensive measure we’ve decided to deploy to protect the lives of our people from North Korea’s reckless provocations,” South Korean president Park Geun-hye said in a speech on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)