Russia and Japan Relationships

Japan has imposed new sanctions against Russia, banning the export of vaccines and medical equipment. The black list also includes Russian politicians and entrepreneurs. At the same time, the country is calling for the resumption of humanitarian exchanges with the Russian Federation in the South Kuriles as soon as possible.

There are also statements from local politicians that “the supply of tanks to Ukraine can lead to a prolongation of the conflict.” What political line does Tokyo adhere to in relation to Moscow?

The blacklist has been expanded:

“From January 27, the Japanese Foreign Ministry freezes the assets of 22 individuals and three organizations as involved in the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol and as directly related to the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine,” such a statement appeared on the official website of the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

The restrictive measures affected, in particular, Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuichenko, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, Deputy Defense Minister Mikhail Mizintsev, General Director of KamAZ Sergey Kogonin, philosopher Alexander Dugin, member of the Public Chamber Alexander Malkevich, head of the CEC Ella Pamfilova, authorized on the rights of the child Maria Lvova-Belova.

The Irkut Corporation, the Moscow Avangard Machine-Building Plant and KamAZ PJSC were also blacklisted.

In addition, Tokyo imposed a ban on the export to Russia of vaccines and medical devices, robots, radioactive materials, as well as equipment for nuclear facilities, oil and natural gas exploration.

Last year, despite restrictive measures from Japan, trade between the countries grew by 6.2%, amounting to $19.96 billion.

The Kremlin said that the new restrictive measures “do not carry anything new and terrible for the Russian Federation.”

“Japan, in fact, from the very beginning of this situation, took its place in the circle of countries unfriendly to us. She continues this sanctions line. We are more and more adapting to life under these sanctions. Elements of compensatory or economics are also included for social aspects, and so on,” Dmitry Peskov, press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, responded.

At the same time, according to him, relations between Moscow and Tokyo “are in a sad state,” and the introduction of restrictive measures will inevitably entail consequences for bilateral relations between Japan and Russia. Peskov said that the Russian Federation would be guided by its own interests when developing response steps.

Controversial relationship

Relations between Tokyo and Moscow deteriorated significantly after the start of the Russian NWO in Ukraine.

“We will continue to actively promote sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine,” Fumio Kishida promised the day before.

In early 2023, Japanese media, citing sources, reported that in mid-February, the Japanese prime minister could visit Kyiv and hold talks with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. Kishida is the only leader of the G7 who has not yet met with the President of Ukraine.

In March last year, Russia refused to negotiate with Japan on the status of the Kuril Islands, which is disputed by the Japanese authorities. As one of the main challenges to the country, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the conflict in Ukraine.

According to him, Russia, China and North Korea “come the main threat to peace, security and the rule of international law.”

At the same time, he declared his readiness to continue dialogue with the Russian Federation in order to conclude a peace agreement on the territorial issue. The Kremlin said they were not ready to continue negotiations because of the sanctions imposed by Tokyo.

Also, Russia withdrew from the dialogue with Japan on the establishment of joint economic activities in the southern Kuril Islands and blocked the extension of Japan’s status as a partner of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization in the sectoral dialogue.

On September 5, 2022, Russia suspended the agreement on the procedure for mutual trips, as well as the agreement with Japan on facilitated visits to the Kuril Islands by the Japanese who previously lived in these territories.

Resumption of projects

Japan says it wants to resume humanitarian exchanges with the Russian Federation in the South Kuriles as soon as possible, including fishing and visiting graves located on the island. According to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Tokyo is constantly in dialogue with Moscow at the embassy level.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once noted that the Russian Federation and Japan maintain contacts only at the level of diplomatic missions, since Tokyo “on its own initiative has frozen other opportunities for communication.”

Meanwhile, Deputy General Secretary of the Cabinet Seiji Kihara refused to evaluate the decisions of Washington and Berlin on the supply of tanks to Ukraine. And the deputy of the upper house of the Japanese parliament, Muneo Suzuki, even said that the supply of tanks to Ukraine could lead to a prolongation of the conflict and an increase in the number of victims, including among civilians, due to the provision of such weapons by the West.

On January 25, US President Joseph Biden announced the delivery of 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Kiev. He also added that other countries will also transfer heavy military equipment to Ukraine. In particular, the German Cabinet confirmed the decision to send 14 German Leopard 2 tanks from the stocks of the Bundeswehr.

Should not be overestimated

  • A strange mosaic picture is emerging that, on the one hand, the Japanese oppose interaction and support for Russia, on the other hand, they want to develop business with the Russian Federation within the framework of Sakhalin projects. The situation is complex and contradictory. After February 24 last year, Tokyo made a political decision to side with the G7 and the countries that support Ukraine.

In fact, Japan took an anti-Russian position and, like other countries, began to impose sanctions. In particular, how is the United States doing it, with which Japan has close cooperation in politics and defense,” Oleg Kazakov, senior researcher at the Institute of China and Contemporary Asia, explained in an interview.

The political scientist noted that Japan is “a democratic country in which there are different opinions that may not coincide with the course of the ruling coalition.”

“The opinion about tanks is not the opinion of Prime Minister Kishida, it is the opinion of individuals. The opposition is trying to find weaknesses in the prime minister. There are various conflicting opinions. As for political relations between the Russian Federation and Japan, they are now very bad. Economic relations have also tightened up behind them, because the sanctions are hitting the economy. Tokyo and Moscow have a difficult situation in the political and economic field, much has been destroyed, it will be difficult to restore interaction, the expert believes.

According to the expert, destructive processes are still going on in Russian-Japanese relations.

Russia and Japan Relationship
Russia and Japan Relationship
  • In the future, when the causes of the conflict dry up, Russia and Japan will have to build new relations. And in them, Tokyo will insist that there is no peace treaty between the countries, that Japan has territorial claims against the Russian Federation, there is no getting away from this. Japan’s position as a whole is that, on the one hand, it supports anti-Russian sanctions and believes that the situation in Ukraine must be ended as soon as possible; otherwise the escalation will grow more and more.

On the other hand, it still continues to return its foreign policy priorities. The main one in relation to the Russian Federation is a peace treaty, Kazakov notes in an interview.

Vladimir Nelidov, Associate Professor at the Department of Oriental Studies at MGIMO, also believes that the significance of the statements from Tokyo and the fact that Japanese companies have decided not to withdraw from Sakhalin projects should not be overestimated.

The specialist believes that one should not underestimate Japanese diplomacy and the willingness of the Japanese to pursue their own national interests within the given framework.

  • For Japan, there is no alternative to an alliance with the United States and condemnation of the actions of the Russian Federation, but at the same time, when there is a choice between sacrificing their national interests or following them, they choose the latter.

The most obvious example is the Sakhalin projects. The Japanese are not ready to sacrifice their national interests for the sake of solidarity with the West.

Apparently, Western countries treat this with understanding, – the expert summed up in an interview.