Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

  • HOME
  • Speaking Out
  • 【#889】Russian Information Warfare over Japan’s Northern Territories
Takashi Arimoto

【#889】Russian Information Warfare over Japan’s Northern Territories

Takashi Arimoto / 2022.02.24 (Thu)

February 21, 2022

As the United States and Russia are waging a fierce information warfare over Ukraine, Russia is carrying out similar warfare over the Japanese Northern Territories that are integral part of Japan but occupied by Russia. On February 7, designated by Japan as Northern Territories Day, the Russian independent television NTV broadcast a program demonstrating Japan as taking advantage of visa-free visits to the northern islands by former Japanese residents to enhance intelligence operations.

An SD card found in bread

The program showed that a Japanese female interpreter accompanying visitors to Shikotan Island was detained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents when she received “secret information” on the development of the island and that an SD card for recording digital camera data was found in a chunk of brown bread when she was being interrogated.

The program also showed a self-claimed Russian resident on Kunashiri Island testifying that a Japanese Public Security Intelligence Agency official who used a fake name to disguise himself as a scholar asked the Russian to provide documents on barrack construction. Surface-to-ship missiles have been deployed on Kunashiri. The program also included a scene where a Japanese journalist was detained by FSB agents on a street after interviewing a self-claimed Russian military expert at a restaurant in Vladivostok.

These scenes looked as if the incidents had occurred very recently. But former island residents’ visa-free visits have been suspended for two years since 2020 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The footage played on the NTV seems to have shown what had happened during the 2019 visit to Shikotan. It is utterly unbelievable that the Japanese interpreter inserted an SD card into a chunk of bread. She might have been trapped by the FSB. The woman was released later and reportedly returned to Nemuro Port in Hokkaido along with other visitors. The Japanese journalist might have been a Kyodo News reporter who was seized in December 2019. Kyodo News said after the reporter was released that it believed the reporter had been engaged in normal news gathering activities.

The program apparently intended to stir up a sense of crisis in Russia by broadcasting old footage disguised as recent events.

At the same time, the TV program might have been designed to warn Japan that is considering to impose economic and financial sanctions on Russia together with Western countries in the event of its invasion into Ukraine. The program may also be suggesting that Russia would flatly cancel the suspended visa-free visits to the northern islands if Japan decides to impose sanctions on Russia.

Russia’s illegal occupation of the Northern Territories

The Putin administration has toughened control on media. NTV had been given high ratings for its coverage of the Chechen war but has come under control by state-run Gazprom following the seizure of its owner for alleged embezzlement. Video data for the Japanese interpreter and other scenes might have been provided by the FSB to NTV, indicating cooperation between the two.

A national rally calling for the return of the Northern Territories on February 7 adopted an appeal that Russia’s illegal occupation of the islands over 76 years is intolerable. The Japanese government must persuade the international community that Russia has illegally occupied the islands. At the same time, it should make clear again that Japan would never conclude a peace treaty with Russia without resolving the Northern Territories issue.

Takashi Arimoto is a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and publisher of Monthly Magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.