Local revitalization minister Shigeru Ishiba appeared in Yomiuri TV program on Nov 8. He spoke about Japan-China statement that is called to better the relationship between the two countries and in which Japan accepted that Japan and China have different views on the tense situation around the Senkaku Islands (Okinawa pref., Ishigaki). He stated that “it does not at all mean that Japan accepted that there is a territorial dispute (around Senkaku). There is absolutely no change in Japan’s position”.
On the other hand, he praised the statement saying that “there is no telling when Japan and China would clash (over the Senkakus). It is a great achievement that we can now talk to prevent the clashes.”
About China wishing PM Shinzo Abe to stop visits to the Yasukuni shrine Ishiba stressed: “It is up to the politician to decide whether to go to the Yasukuni or not, it is not something to be decided by China”.
Russian defense budget is steadily growing year by year. In 2015 it will account for 4.2% of GDP (3,286 trillion rubles). In 2014 it was 3.4% GDP, in 2013 – 3.2%, and in 2012 – 3%.
At the same time in Japan it is still 1% of GDP… This is even less than what is required of the NATO countries (2%).
The increase of scrambles caused by the Russian planes and of course the repeated Chinese violation of national waters near the Senkaku Islands calls for more steep increase in military spending. At the very least it should be 2% of GDP.
Unfortunately the Japanese people are still not ready for this increase being haunted by the ghosts of the WWII…
The government imposed further sanctions on Russia in the view of the situation in Ukraine. Now export of weapons to Russia and also technological partnership in the military sphere is forbidden. Also some Russian banks cannot issue securities in Japan.
Japan is planning to introduce additional sanctions against Russia over the situation in Ukraine. The sanctions are to be announced on Sep 19.
So far Japan was very lenient on Russia only refusing visa to some minor Russian officials who were involved with Crimea annexation. It is planned that the list of Russians who are to be refused Japanese visa would be extended and also their assets in Japan would be frozen. However, the new sanctions may follow the US and EU pattern to include financial and energy sector. Sure enough that Russia will be protesting and Putin’s visit to Japan planned for this fall might be postponed.
Japan did not want to aggravate relations with Russia very much hoping to resolve the Northern Territories problem. But with the US and EU taking further steps to make Russia behave, Japan will have to reconsider its policy and take a stronger stance.
Russia announced that it would deny visas to several Japanese officials as a response measure to Japan’s sanctions imposed on Russia by G7 countries. MOFA official stated: “This will have negative impact on Japan-Russia relations. We are disappointed.” and mentioned that the Russian move will be analyzed and proper response considered in the beginning of the next week. Japanese government reaffirms that it will be further cooperating with G7 over the sanctions on Russia. The list of officials who would be denied entry to Russia will not be disclosed.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf in connection with the Russia’s military exercises near the Kunashiri and Etorofu islands, which are a part of the Northern Territories long occupied by Russia, stated: “The United States recognizes Japanese sovereignty over these islands.”
The question and answer during Harf’s daily press briefing in Washington DC on Aug 13 went like this:
QUESTION: And just in the region, also on Russia, do you have any comment on the Russian exercises in what they call the Southern Kuril* Islands? The Japanese were upset.
MS. HARF: Yes. Let me see what I have on that. I have something brief. The United States recognizes Japanese sovereignty over these islands. And don’t have – I said it was brief. Don’t have anything more for you.
* in the transcript it was written as “Kirul”, which is obviously a typo
The government confirmed on Aug 13 that Russia conducted military exercises on the occupied Northern Territories. This information was distributed via Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a high probability that the exercises took place at the Etorofu and Kunashiri islands vicinity. Details are being confirmed. Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to express Japan’s strong protest to Russia on the same day.
Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Aug 12 that Russia started military exercises at the Kuril Islands, which include the Northern Territories. Over one thousand military personnel and five attack helicopters are taking part in the trainings. Exercises are aimed to boost Russia’s ability to protect the remote islands.
Foreign Ministry official Shinsuke Sugiyama during his visit to the US on Aug 11 conducted discussions with senior American officials – Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman and Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller. Sugiyama explained the position of Abe’s administration in respect to dealing with Russia over the situation in Ukraine the approach to the problem of North Korea.
During the talks Sugiyama stressed the importance of cooperation between the G7 countries and also between Japan, America and Korea. There was also opinion exchange over the situation in Iraq.
Reflecting on the meeting Sugiyama said: “We had a chance to discuss a wide range of subjects. I believe the US can now understand our position”.
Japan imposed additional sanctions on Russia. The assets of 40 people and two companies thought to be involved in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilizing the situation in the Eastern Ukraine are to be freezed if found to be in Japan’s jurisdiction. Import of goods made in the annexed Crimea peninsula are to be restricted.
This of course does not inflict any serious damage on Russia and pro-Russian terrorists openly supported by Russia in the Eastern Ukraine. Distinct from the EU sanctions, there is no close Putin’s business ‘friends’ among those 40. It is clear that Japan does not want to impose more strict sanctions hoping to continue dialogue with Russia this fall on returning the occupied Northern Territories.
The problem is that Russia does not appreciate Japan’s consideration at all. It cancelled the consultations of foreign affairs deputies that were to be held in the end of August. Japanese government expressed deep regret over the Russia’s unilateral decision to postpone the consultations. The source in the Japanese government pointed out: “It is a pity that Russia closes the door for dialogue”.
in the news
Japan will need to decide on further sanctions against Russia in the view of Malaysia Airlines jet being shot down in the Eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian terrorists or maybe even by Russian troops.
Some Russian analysts believe that Japan does not want to impose any sanctions on Russia and that PM Abe wants to keep good relations with Putin in the view of the expected talks over the Northern Territories occupied by Soviet Union and now Russia. Another reason is that PM Abe is supposedly building some sort of security belt around China and the Japan does not want for Russia and China to become close allies. But at the end, say these analysts, if US will force Japan to impose more sanctions on Russia, hinting that Japan will never go against the US.
Do these arguments really have any ground?
It is true that Japan is interested in normal relationship with Russia (as with any neighboring country), but the faint possibility of returning the Northern Territories is not worth letting Putin have its way in the middle of Europe. Yes, Ukraine is very far from Japan and there is little to no interest of Japan and Japanese companies in Ukraine. However, not giving proper response to Putin’s aggression would mean that Japan is giving silent approval to changing the existing international rules by force. And this would give China a go ahead to do the same in the Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.
Then, should Japan really be worried about Russia and China becoming close allies? Not really. After Russia signed the so-called gas deal with China this year Chinese representative openly mentioned that Russia have a vast territories and China has a lot of industrious people, and that is why the two countries should cooperate. This makes China’s agenda very much clear. Putin is not a complete idiot not to understand this, but even if he is, the tycoons around him will explain the problem. Russia far from being interested to be hugged to death by China. It rather tries to scare the West by demonstrating its warm relations with China and pretending it can get by without the European markets. But nobody believes this bluff now. Neither should Japan.
But what is more important, Japan should think about its international responsibility if we want to play a bigger role in Asia and in the world. Sometimes this calls to put national interests behind the international responsibility. This responsibility lies with Japan as well as with the US.