National / Politics

Japan passes fresh round of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Japan unveiled new economic sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, its third round of penalties aimed at pressing the Kremlin to change course in Ukraine.

The latest package includes export restrictions on military-related technology and measures to prevent five Russian banks from issuing new securities on the Japanese market.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo was adopting the measures in line with the actions of other members of the Group of Seven industrialized countries.

But the new sanctions appear to be milder than those imposed by the European Union, apparently reflecting a softer attitude toward Moscow as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to convene a summit over the future of Russian-held islands of Hokkaido.

The five Russian banks are Sberbank, VTB Bank, Vnesheconombank, Gazprombank and Russian Agricultural Bank.

Suga told news conference on Wednesday that Japan had made its own decision “in cooperation with G-7 countries.”

On Sunday, Abe spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone and proposed a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing in November.

When asked if the new sanctions would affect the proposed meeting, Suga tried to brush aside the concerns.

“I don’t think so,” he said.

Japan’s actions follow measures that have already been adopted by other G-7 countries, including the United States. But Tokyo’s somewhat distanced approach indicates that it still harbors hopes of inviting Putin to Tokyo.

Suga also dodged a question about whether Japan considers the latest U.S. airstrikes in Syria legal under international law.

Instead, he replied that Tokyo “supports” the international community’s fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, and “understands” the U.S.-led airstrikes are meant to prevent a further deterioration in the situation there.

The U.S. has defended its airstrikes as legal under international law, while Russia has denounced them.