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Japan remains cautious about sanctions on China over Uyghurs 

  • March 24, 2021
  • , Nikkei
  • JMH Summary

Nikkei wrote that the GOJ is taking a cautious position on imposing sanctions on China over its human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region because China is Japan’s largest trade partner and Beijing is stepping up its military pressure on Japan. The paper wrote that some in the ruling LDP are calling for the enactment of a new law allowing Japan to impose sanctions on foreign countries over human rights violations because Japan may be asked by the United States and European nations to act in concert with them on the matter in the future. Although Japan can freeze the assets of foreign nationals and limit their entry to Japan through the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law, it has no legislation allowing it to impose sanctions over human rights violations. Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato expressed “serious concern” about the human rights situation in Xinjiang during a regular press briefing on Tuesday and added that there is no law in Japan to impose sanctions on foreign countries by explicitly citing human rights issues. 


Japan froze the personal assets of Libya’s Gaddafi for his human rights violations in the past, but the move was based on a UN resolution. Nikkei speculated that Tokyo is cautious about imposing sanctions on Beijing because it is difficult to obtain accurate information about China’s human rights abuses. Foreign Minister Motegi told reporters on Tuesday that the GOJ will hold further discussions on how to respond to the issue. When asked in a TV interview on Tuesday whether Japan has been asked by the United States and Europe to adopt similar sanctions on China, Motegi reportedly said no and stated that there are various ways to send a warning to Beijing. However, Chairman Masahisa Sato of the LDP Foreign Affairs Division told Nikkei that Japan could become isolated over the issue in the G7 summit in June. Noting that Prime Minister Suga is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with President Biden in April and attend the G7 summit, the paper speculated that the pressure on Japan to act in concert with the United States and Europe may increase. Yomiuri and Sankei ran similar reports. 

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