The islands were annexed by the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the Kuril Islands landing operation at the end of the Second World War, which did not end in an official peace treaty between the two nations because of the dispute over the islands.
The dispute may put at risk promised Japanese investment and undermine Russia’s efforts to strike a deal with Japan as a counterbalance to China’s growing economic and military power.
Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy which advises the Kremlin, said: “The Japanese side has unrealistic ideas about the possible time frame for all this.”
The latest military buildup comes after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has approved the deployment of Russian warplanes on the disputed islands.
This accelerated militarisation at a time when Moscow’s ties with Tokyo were strained over the expansion of a US missile system.
Medvedev allowed the Russian Defence Ministry to use a civilian airport for military warplanes on the island of Iturup – otherwise known as Etorofu in Japan.
The islands are located off the north-east coast of Hokkaido, Japan’s biggest prefecture.
It is unclear whether Russia will permanently deploy warplanes to the island, which hosted a Soviet air base during the Cold War.
The newspaper Kommersant quoted an unnamed military source as saying the move would give the Russian military more options.
The source said: “This move should show the aerodrome’s readiness for fighter planes that patrol our borders to be temporarily based there.”
The Japanese embassy in Moscow said the Russian move was counter to Tokyo’s attempts at negotiation.
It said in a statement: “We believe this could result in Russia’s military power being strengthened on the four islands and that contradicts Japan’s position on the islands.
“We need a solution to the territorial problem itself in order to fundamentally address these kinds of problems.”
In November 2016, it was reported that Putin deployed nuclear-capable missile systems to the Kuril islands.
Bastion and Bal anti-ship missile systems have a range of almost 200 miles.