The Japanese government is taking a cautious stance on sanctions against China over its human rights violations against ethnic minority communities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The United States, European Union and other countries are set to impose sanctions, and some in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are calling for Japan to respond.
“There are different measures that each country can take. It is important for each country to think about what would be effective while making efforts to reach out [to China],” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at a meeting of the upper house Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday.
While Washington has clearly stated that human rights violations by China constitute “genocide,” the Japanese government has reserved judgment.
“We have not been able to confirm cases of human rights suppression,” said a senior Foreign Ministry official.
Japan is the only G7 country that does not have a legal framework for imposing sanctions on government officials of other countries for human rights violations.
While there are moves by the ruling and opposition parties to create such laws, the government is hesitant to do so because it may lead to interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
Japan is also not a signatory to the Genocide Convention, which mandates punishment for mass killings. The convention, which came into effect in 1951, has 152 signatory countries and regions, including China and North Korea.
The Japanese government has been working with the United States on its policy toward China, regarding human rights violations. According to government officials, Washington has not asked Tokyo to impose sanctions so far.
However, the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden has attached importance to human rights diplomacy, triggering concerns in the LDP. “If things continue as they are, even Japan may come under scrutiny from the U.S. and Europe,” a former cabinet member said.