Japan must lead intl community in strengthening Russia sanctions

Condoning a change to the status quo by force will undermine the foundation of the rules-based international order. Japan must lead the international community in solidarity.

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the government has decided to impose sanctions against the country, including freezing the assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and others and excluding seven Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment system.

As a member of the Group of Seven advanced nations, Japan has taken the lead in promoting a vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The nation needs to implement strict sanctions in line with the United States and Europe.

Japan has been exposed to unreasonable pressure from China around the Senkaku Islands. China is also escalating military tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea.

Whether Russia can be made to abandon its invasion of Ukraine and to pay a heavy price will likely have an impact on China’s behavior in the future. The tyrannical acts by Russia that flout international law, such as threatening to use nuclear weapons, should not be accepted.

The United States and Europe are mulling further strengthening their sanctions. The government should consider more effective measures to deal with the situation as a matter that is directly linked to Japan’s security.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has strongly condemned Russia at a summit meeting with G7 members and another with the United States, Australia and India, saying, “We need to show clearly the cost of attempting to change the status quo by force.”

The prime minister should further actively engage in summit diplomacy to bring the international community together. It is also important for Kishida — whose home turf is in Hiroshima, which suffered an atomic bombing — to speak out about the horrors of nuclear weapons and urge Moscow to exercise self-restraint.

For the U.N. General Assembly’s emergency special session that adopted a resolution condemning Russia, Japan cooperated with the United States and Europe to persuade countries reluctant to vote for the resolution. It is Japan’s responsibility to promote cooperation with Southeast Asian countries as well as some other countries that are distant from the United States and Europe.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Japan did not initially implement sanctions comparable to those imposed by Europe and the United States, in consideration of the potential impact on negotiations over the northern territories.

Japan has taken an approach of trying to make progress on the territorial issue via economic cooperation. However, this time Kishida declared that Japan “can no longer keep the relationship with Russia the way it has been.” This is a natural consequence.

It is important to return to the original point of demanding the return of the northern territories, which are illegally occupied by Russia.

The government also plans to accept civilians fleeing Ukraine and provide emergency humanitarian assistance to the country. Japan should expand the support that accommodates what these people truly need.

It has been reported that the Ukrainian Embassy in Japan has received a flood of donations. It is hoped that Japan’s support for Ukraine will be passed on in various ways at the grassroots level, too.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 7, 2022.