Take firm action over Russia’s treatment of Japanese diplomat

It is totally unacceptable to infringe on consular status, which is protected by an international treaty. The government should respond firmly to such an infringement.

A consul at the Japanese Consulate General in Vladivostok was temporarily detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on allegations that he had illegally obtained classified information.

The Russian Foreign Ministry notified the Japanese Embassy in Russia that it had declared the consul a persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country.

“It is absolutely not true that [the consul] committed illegal activities,” Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters. Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori summoned Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin to lodge a protest and call for Moscow to prevent a recurrence. Mori also conveyed to the Russian side that the Japanese government would take “appropriate measures.”

The consul was reportedly taken blindfolded with pressure applied to his hands and head, and was then questioned in a coercive manner. The detention continued for three hours.

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations guarantees “personal inviolability of consular officers.” The action taken by Russia is outrageous, as it evidently violated the treaty. It has also raised humanitarian issues.

As the declaration of persona non grata is a significantly strong diplomatic measure, the abuse of the measure is unacceptable. It is natural for the Japanese government to take countermeasures, and it is important for it to show the international community how unjustly the Russian government has acted.

It is hoped that the Japanese government will investigate the circumstances behind the incident in detail and work to ensure the safety of its personnel working in Russia. Tokyo is also urged to keep an eye on the safety of Japanese residents in Russia and the activities of Japanese companies there.

Moscow’s aim is apparently to retaliate against Japan, which has imposed sanctions on Russia in cooperation with Western countries.

In March, the Russian government designated Japan as an “unfriendly” country and suspended peace treaty negotiations between the two countries.

Earlier this month, Moscow also unilaterally scrapped bilateral agreements on visa-free exchanges between Japanese people and Russians living in the northern territories, as well as on an open visitation program under which former islanders can visit the territories with simple procedures.

Having invaded Ukraine, Russia itself is to blame for the sanctions. It is unreasonable for Russia to disregard its own barbaric acts and view Japan as an enemy.

This week, the Japanese government decided to impose a ban on exports of materials potentially related to chemical weapons as a new sanction against Russia. Tokyo must not be rattled by Moscow’s actions. Japan should unite with the international community and step up pressure on the country.

The Russian military conducted major exercises in the Far East, including the islands of Etorofu and Kunashiri, earlier this month. The exercises were reportedly conducted to prevent a landing on the islands, on the premise of a Japanese “invasion.” It is outrageous beyond words.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 30, 2022)