As expected, the United States sent a destroyer into waters claimed by China yesterday. The freedom of navigation patrol challenges China's claims around artificial islands it's constructed in the South China Sea. At the same time - another major power is extending military muscle in the Pacific. Details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.
For the most part - Russia allowed its air and naval forces in its far east to rust after the fall of the Soviet Union. But that's beginning to change. A new class of ballistic missile submarines is scheduled to operate out of a base in Kamchatka as soon as port upgrades are completed there, sometime this fall. Now defense minister Sergei Shoigu has announced plans to develop two new bases in the disputed Kuril Islands, just north of Japan, and more bases further north in the Arctic.
The Russian News website Gazeta reports that the 35,000 men of the 18th Machine Gun artillery division already provide a garrison force in the Area - and now new facilities will be constructed for troops on the two largest islands in the Kurils, Iturup and Kunashir. The Soviet Union seized the island chain in the last days of the Second World War. Japan still regards then as its Northern Territories and refuses to accept Russian sovereignty.
No conflicting claims further north - where Russia plans to build bases on Wrangel Island, Cape Schmidt and on the east coast of Chukotka to complement six Arctic airfields, including Tiski and Anadyr, which will be modernized to deploy Mig 31 fighters sometime in 2017. A major new base will be constructed on Kotelny Island in the Novosibirsk archipelago, described by Defense Minister Shoigu as bigger than any base the Soviet Union ever had in the area.