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Abe, Obama agree Ukraine’s sovereignty must be respected

JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed on Friday to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In a 40-minute telephone conversation, Obama explained to Abe the United States’ decision to place economic sanctions and visa restrictions on Russians following Russia’s military intervention in the Crimea region of southern Ukraine, government officials with access to the talks said.

According to the White House, the two leaders agreed that “Russia’s actions are a threat to international peace and security and emphasized the importance of preserving Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Obama told Abe that his planned visit to Japan in April will offer “an important opportunity to advance the many diplomatic, defense and trade initiatives the United States and Japan are pursuing in Asia and around the globe,” according to the White House.

According to the Japanese officials, Obama also asked Japan to coordinate with its Group of Seven peers, the United States included.

Abe expressed support for Obama’s efforts to remedy the situation and conveyed Japan’s hopes for an early resolution, telling the president that Japan plans to work with the Washington to stop the Ukrainian situation from deteriorating further.

The two leaders agreed to support political and economic reforms in the nation as well.

Obama said Ukraine’s presidential election must go ahead as planned in May, stressing that Ukraine should retain its integrity with Crimea for the election regardless of the outcome of a March 16 referendum in the autonomous region on whether to back its parliament’s decision to join Russia. The referendum is expected to back the change.

After their talk, Abe met with U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy at the prime minister’s office. The two agreed to keep in close contact over the issue.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that the phone conversation was held at the request of the White House. Suga emphasized that Japan will continue to closely follow developments in Ukraine.

Also Friday, a Japanese government source said that a planned visit to Japan by the chief of the Russian military had been postponed. Valeriy Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, was to visit Japan for three days from Wednesday.

The Japanese government requested the postponement, the source said. The government apparently believes it is not appropriate to accept a visit by Russia’s military chief at a time when its closest ally, the United States, has decided to impose economic sanctions against it for interfering in Ukraine.

Gerasimov was scheduled to speak with Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, chief of staff at the Self-Defense Forces Joint Staff Office, to discuss ways to promote defense exchanges.