By Aibara Ryo, staff writer
Japan accused Russia of trying to unilaterally change the international status quo through the use of force in Ukraine, but moved to avoid an all-break with Moscow that would derail its own attempts to forge a peace treaty with its wartime enemy.
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, speaking to his Group of Seven counterparts at a meeting in Munich, Germany, on Feb. 19, said Japan stood firm against Russia’s possible invasion of Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian crisis is an issue where the global community’s fundamental principles of not unilaterally changing the status quo through the use of force is at stake,” he said. “The question is not just limited to the security of Europe.”
Hayashi held an online news conference with Japanese reporters in Tokyo after the gathering to explain what he told his fellow foreign ministers.
A senior Foreign Ministry official said it was vitally important for Japan to convey its deep concern over the situation in Ukraine to G-7 member countries, suggesting there were parallels over China’s growing assertiveness in the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told a Diet meeting Feb. 18 that he “is closely watching developments in Ukraine with grave concern” as an invasion would affect the international order and security in Asia.
Lawmakers with Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party also voiced anxiety over the crisis and the potential for conflict if China took military action against Taiwan.
However, Japanese government officials are proceeding cautiously to avoid an all-out fissure with Russia and scuttle attempts to conclude a peace treaty with Moscow that would open to way to resolving a longstanding territorial dispute over a group of islets off Hokkaido in northern Japan.
Japanese and Russian officials held an online meeting Feb. 15 to discuss trade and economic matters.
Two days later, Kishida held a teleconference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and called on him to pursue a diplomatic solution, rather than resort to force in Ukraine.
The two leaders agreed to continue dialogue on the issue of a peace treaty as well as regional and global matters.
The senior Foreign Ministry official said it was paramount for Japan to keep diplomatic channels open with Moscow.