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Japan prioritizes coordination with U.S., Europe over Ukraine at least for now

  • February 24, 2022
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All national papers published analyses of the Kishida administration’s announcement on Japan’s economic sanctions on Russia, saying that Tokyo took a fully coordinated approach with the United States and Europe, marking a sharp contrast with the nation’s reaction to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Japan’s sanctions at the time were limited in scope perhaps in view of then-Prime Minister Abe’s alleged desire not to derail Northern Territories talks by antagonizing President Putin. The papers speculated that with the growing threat posed by China in mind, Tokyo elected to prioritize solidarity with the United States and Europe over bilateral ties with Moscow this time. 

 

However, quotes from GOJ sources on Japan’s future course of action cited by the outlets appeared to point to ambivalence within the administration about what Tokyo should do in the event of a full-fledged invasion. “Japan cannot be allowed to become a loophole” in the application of sanctions, said a source cited by Sankei, which emphasized that the Kishida administration is firmly committed to acting in unison with the United States and Europe. “Even if the extent and severity of the sanctions differs right now [between Japan and the U.S. and Europe], they will eventually fall in sync. If Moscow launches a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Japan’s sanctions will be focused more directly on Russia.” On the other hand, Asahi claimed that some administration officials are not necessarily enthusiastic about ramping up punitive measures on Moscow. “Japan will not take the lead” in imposing fresh sanctions, said a MOFA source, while an unnamed senior Kantei official said, “I don’t think Japan will continue to have to be completely in sync with the United States.”

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