Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says Moscow is thinking about setting up a naval base in the Kuril islands, an area in the Far East of the country that Japan considers to be part of its territory.

Shoigu told a ministry session Friday that a naval expedition is due to leave in April for the Greater Kuril Ridge in order to "study the possibility of basing forces of the Pacific Fleet on the archipelago."

The ridge includes the islands that Japan refers to as the Northern Territories.

The dispute over the islands has prevented the two countries from signing a peace treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities.

Shoigu earlier announced that Russia will be deploying missiles on the islands.