Visit to Russia: Lawmaker Suzuki’s Diplomatic Efforts Self-Righteous, Imprudent

Even though Muneo Suzuki is an opposition party member, he should not be allowed to act against Japan’s diplomatic policy. He should refrain from actions that disrupt the unity of Japan, the United States and Europe in their support for Ukraine.

Suzuki, a House of Councillors member from Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), visited Moscow and met with Russia’s deputy foreign minister and other officials. This was the first known visit by a Diet member to Russia since Russia launched its aggression against Ukraine in February last year.

While in Russia, Suzuki reportedly called for the resumption of visits to graves in the northern territories by former islanders and other persons, as well as for the safe operation of Japanese fishing vessels in the area around the northern territories.

Russia suspended peace treaty negotiations in retaliation for sanctions imposed by Japan against Russia after its aggression against Ukraine. Visits by former islanders and others to graves in the northern territories have been suspended, forcing former islanders to hold offshore memorial services in nearby waters. Fishing operations for hokke, or Okhotsk Atka mackerel, and other activities around the northern territories have been stalled this year because the Russians have not agreed to hold talks.

Suzuki has long been involved in Japan-Russia diplomacy and may have wanted to use his personal connections to respond to the wishes of the former islanders and fishermen.

However, the Russian deputy foreign minister reportedly said only that the problem was Japan’s attitude toward Russia.

The Japanese government has issued an advisory to avoid travel to Russia and was not involved at all in Suzuki’s visit to Moscow. The lawmaker’s diplomatic efforts were made on his own initiative and were highly imprudent.

Suzuki said he told the Russian deputy foreign minister, “First and foremost, there must be a ceasefire.” But does that mean that currently occupied Ukrainian territory can just be annexed into Russia?

While he is free to express his own opinions in Japan, Suzuki’s words and deeds are being used for propaganda purposes on the Russian side. A Russian state-run news agency reported that Suzuki said he was “convinced of a Russian victory.” This is a situation that could damage Japan’s international credibility.

Ishin’s handling of matters related to Suzuki is also being questioned.

Suzuki has repeatedly made remarks in the past that are conciliatory to Russia, but the leadership of Ishin has ignored them. Perhaps they have been reluctant to deal with him harshly because of his high name recognition.

However, it may well be that this attitude among the party’s executives has allowed Suzuki to behave in a self-righteous manner.

Apart from Suzuki’s case, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated at a meeting of domestic and foreign experts that Russia had not imposed sanctions against Japan and that Moscow was open to offers of dialogue from the side that had closed the door.

Japan imposed sanctions only because Russia violated international law in an outrageous manner. It is absurd for Russia to claim that Japan is the cause of the deterioration in bilateral relations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2023)