National / Politics

Japan to maintain Russia sanctions while embarking on economic project

Kyodo

Japan will adopt a two-pronged policy toward Moscow, maintaining sanctions in line with the Group of Seven’s protest against the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula while also helping to boost the Russian economy, according to government sources.

Japan will explain to the rest of the G-7 the need for the policy both to settle bilateral issues and allay growing concerns that Tokyo could withdraw from the anti-Russia coalition against the Crimea seizure, the sources said Sunday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government believes in improving ties with Russia, but this does not preclude remaining tough on the Crimea issue, the sources said.

The latest G-7 summit, held in May in Mie Prefecture with Abe as chairman, adopted a statement condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“We cannot stop condemning Russia unless Crimea’s sovereignty returns to Ukraine,” one of the sources said. Another said the need to continue with the current sanctions “is likely to be a topic” at next year’s G-7 summit, which will be held in Italy.

But Abe will make good on a recent agreement with President Vladimir Putin to provide a ¥300 billion package to help boost the Russian economy. The leaders reached the agreement during Putin’s Dec. 15-16 visit to Japan.

Japan may end up helping Russian corporations that are designated under sanctions imposed by other countries in connection with the Crimea issue and Russia’s largest oil producer. Rosneft, which is covered by the Tokyo-Moscow package, might be one such company, the sources said.

In reaction to the Crimea annexation, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, as well as the European Union, took various punitive actions against Russia.

On a bilateral basis Japan has suspended inter-government negotiations on relaxing visa conditions and limited imports of products from Crimea.

Japan has asked Russia to settle the decades-old dispute over Japan’s claim to the four Russian-held islands off Hokkaido to sign a post-World War II peace treaty.

Russia has shown few signs of budging over the islands, which Soviet troops seized after Japan’s surrender in 1945.