Russia expels Japanese journalist in military espionage row

MOSCOW/TOKYO - Russia said on Monday (Jan 27) it expelled a Japanese journalist last month for trying to obtain secret information related to Russian military capabilities in the Russian Far East, Russia's RIA news agency reported.

The expelled journalist worked for Japan's Kyodo News agency, it said on Tuesday, denying the accusation of attempted espionage.

Kyodo did not identify the reporter but said he was detained on Dec 25 in Vladivostok and released after about five hours of questioning.

The reporter was told to leave Russia in 72 hours, Kyodo said.

"For safety reasons, he left the country the following day. It is our understanding that he was engaged in standard reporting activities," Kyodo said in an e-mailed statement.

Russia's foreign ministry summoned a Japanese embassy official to make an official diplomatic protest over the incident, RIA reported.

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it could not comment on the matter.

Ties between Japan and Russia have been strained for decades by a territorial dispute over a chain of islands in the Pacific.

Known in Russia as the Southern Kuriles and in Japan as the Northern Territories, the islands were seized by the Soviet army in the waning days of World War Two.

The dispute has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a formal peace treaty and developing their relations.

"The Japanese citizen was detained by Russian law enforcement officers in Vladivostok on Dec 25, 2019 trying to receive secret materials about Russia's military potential in the Far East," RIA quoted the Russian foreign ministry as saying.