Is Russia playing with the nerves of its neighbours ? That seems to be the case as two Russian fighters violated Japanese airspace on Thursday, Tokyo’s defence ministry said, prompting Japan to scramble its own warplanes in what was reported to be the first such incident in five years. The planes were detected off the northern island of Hokkaido for just over a minute, shortly after Japan’s new prime minister said he wanted to find a “mutually acceptable solution” to a decades-old territorial row between the two. Japan’s foreign ministry lodged a formal protest over what it said was an incursion by a pair of Russian Su-27 fighters. Four Japanese F-2 fighters were sent up to visually confirm the Russian planes, according to Kyodo news. The last breach was in 2008. Although Moscow denied any breach, the incident demonstrates again the tensions in the region about small islands that are effectively rich under with gas, oil and fishing rights. Long talks have been going on with Russia and Japan, about these. In December, Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to restart talks on signing a peace treaty formally ending the hostilities of World War II that has been stymied by the dispute about the islands. Soviet forces seized the isles, which stretch out into rich fishing waters off the northern coast of Hokkaido, in the dying days of WWII and drove out Japanese residents. The islands were later re-populated by Russians but remain a poor and undeveloped part of the country. One can help think that between the Russians and the Japanese, the Russians must necessarily be the bad guys. What is that so?

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