TOKYO, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government on Wednesday lodged a protest with Russia over its military drills on disputed islands off Hokkaido administered by Russia but claimed by Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Wednesday that the military drills on the island were unacceptable and the official complaint to Russia from the foreign ministry here was as per his instruction.
"The Northern Territories are an inherent part of Japan's territory, and we cannot accept the move," a foreign ministry spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Two of the four contested islets being used by Russia for the drill are Etorofu and Kunashiri islands. They comprise what Japan refers to as the Northern Territories and Russia the Kuril Islands.
The disputed islands also include the islet groups of Shikotan and Habomai.
The military drills are the largest Russia has conducted in several years, sources here close to the matter said, involving more than 1,000 soldiers, 100 military vehicles and as many as five attack helicopters.
The drills are aimed at bolstering Russia's ability to defend its remote islands, the sources said.
Russia's military drills come at a testing time for relations between Tokyo and Moscow following Japan slapping sanctions on Russia along with the European Union and United States in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea, and, more recently, as a punitive measure levied at Moscow for its alleged support of separatist forces in Ukraine.
Moscow has consistently denied such allegations and last week canceled a scheduled meeting between Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and his Russian counterpart Igor Morgulov.
Another visit to Moscow by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, originally scheduled for April, has also been indefinitely postponed.
Prior to the Ukraine issue, relations between Tokyo and Moscow over the territorial dispute had begun to thaw, with Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled to hold a summit here this autumn in a bid to resolve the issue.
Both parties have yet to confirm whether the summit will go ahead or not in light of the recent tensions.