>> Russia has announced it will continue to fortify these picturesque islands in the Northern Pacific. There is just one problem. The islands are claimed by both Moscow and Tokyo. The Japanese prime minister might visit Russia next month, partly with the goal of formalizing a peace treaty that's eluded them since World War II.
But the islands could complicate those efforts. Russians call the place the Southern Kurils, and the Japanese call it the Northern Territories. They were seized by Russia from Japan at the end of World War II. The Japanese villagers were removed and replaced with a population of about 14,000 Russians, mostly in fishing towns.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Vladimir Putin have already had several meetings, and diplomats on both sides have called for the islands to be split up, two for Russia, and the other two for Japan. But Tokyo says the sizable Russian military presence locally is complicating efforts. It includes warplanes and missile defense systems and now plans for more barracks and facilities for armored vehicles.
Russia, meanwhile, has long criticized Japan's own rollout of American anti-missile systems.