Strengthen international coordination to pressure Russia

The situation surrounding the Ukraine crisis shows no improvement. Japan needs to lead the international community in closer cooperation and make its pressure on Russia even more effective.

Following his visits to Indonesia and two other Asian countries, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Italy, the Vatican and the United Kingdom.

At a press conference, the prime minister emphasized that “the international community is at a major historical crossroads” and said that “now is the time to solidify the unity of the Group of Seven industrialized nations in order to protect and preserve peace and order in the world.”

In meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Kishida confirmed with the two leaders that the G7 nations should unite in their commitment to sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine. They also agreed on the importance of reaching out to Asia and Africa on the issue.

It is highly significant that Kishida actively promoted a framework of international cooperation while coordinating policies between the G7, which has taken the lead in sanctions against Russia, and Southeast Asia, which is cautious about sanctions.

Later this month, there will be Japan-U.S. summit talks as well as a summit meeting of Japan, the United States, Australia and India in Tokyo. G7 summit talks will also be held in Germany in June. It is essential that each country’s views be coordinated through these various opportunities.

During the prime minister’s visit to Europe, Russia announced that it would impose an indefinite entry ban on 63 Japanese nationals, including the prime minister, Cabinet ministers, Diet members and members of the press, in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Japan.

This is completely misguided. It is clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin bears full responsibility for the current situation. It is unacceptable for him to criticize Japan while sidestepping his own actions.

At his press conference, Kishida announced additional sanctions, including expanding the scope of the asset freeze that is their pillar. It is important to deal a blow to prominent figures close to Putin and make it difficult for him to continue the invasion.

In the European Union, an idea to ban imports of Russian oil has been floated. Japan needs to carefully consult with other countries on this matter.

It is appropriate that the prime minister stressed during his trip that the Ukraine crisis will have a serious impact on Asia as well.

In the meetings with the leaders of the United Kingdom and Italy, Kishida and his two counterparts agreed that “the security of Europe and the Indo-Pacific is indivisible,” with China’s increasing hegemonic behavior in mind, and confirmed that they would strengthen security cooperation.

With the United Kingdom, a broad agreement was reached to conclude a reciprocal access agreement that will facilitate joint training between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.K. Armed Forces. If the United Kingdom strengthens its involvement in the Indo-Pacific region, it will serve as a brake on China.

The United Kingdom reportedly plans to remove restrictions on imports of food products from Fukushima and other prefectures by the end of June. The friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom will likely be further deepened.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 7, 2022)