Japan's Position on Ukraine
June 30, 2022
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the international community, including the G7 members, has taken a firm stance against Russia’s actions and showed its support to the Ukrainian government and its citizens. Japan has been particularly firm in condemning Russia’s acts, which Prime Minister Kishida Fumie qualified as “brutal”, “absolutely intolerable” and a “grave violation of international law”. In the face of the threat posed by Russia to the very foundations of the world order, Japan referred the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague on March 9, in an attempt to protect the global peace during this critical time. Japan supported its referral by citing the United Nations General Assembly Resolution of March 2 which condemns all violations of international humanitarian law and the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting Statement of March 4 which denounced Russian attacks and reiterated a support of the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
As of June 9, the Japanese government has provided Ukraine with US$ 600 million in financial support and US$ 200 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in areas related to health, medical care, food and protection of people through international organizations. It has also sent defense materials such as drones, bulletproof vests, helmets and winter battle dress uniform. Additionally, Japan has opened its door to Ukrainian evacuees, granted visa extensions to Ukrainian residents in Japan, and sent out United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s humanitarian relief items by Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) aircraft.
In parallel with this, the Japanese government has deployed a series of financial measures against Russia. Some of these measures consist in restricting transactions with Russia’s central bank and freezing the assets of people related to the Russian government, including President Putin, of Russian business oligarchs, and of 11 Russian banks as well as their subsidiaries in Japan. Moreover, the Japanese government added measures that forbid the establishment of new investments in Russia and in support with the international community’s efforts to exclude Russia from the global financial system and economy, isolated designated Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system. As for the government’s trade measures against Russia, Japan withdrew the country’s “most-favoured-nation” status and imposed an import embargo on products such as machinery and wood as well as an export embargo on luxury products. Furthermore, Japan has imposed sanctions on all exports to Russian entities associated with the military and of some products including semiconductors or goods that could develop the country’s industrial capacities. Internally, Japan has been working on lowering its dependence on Russian energy by banning its coal and oil imports.
Some of the reasons behind Japan’s assertiveness towards Russia’s aggression are reflected in a speech given by Prime Minister Kishida on May 22 at the Guildhall in London. He included a personal and touching statement in his speech where he confessed that, being from Hiroshima and having memories from the atomic bomb, he is driven “to take action to restore peace” in this situation where there is a threat of a similar occurrence happening. Prime Minister Kishida added that the situation in Europe “is a challenge that is not confined to Europe – it is a matter for the whole world, including Asia”. He emphasized the fact that this attempt by Russia to unilaterally change the status quo is not to be allowed regardless of the part of the world in which it is happening, and the Indo-Pacific is not safe as its security and that of Europe are interconnected. That last point was further developed in a press conference on June 15 when Prime Minister Kishida said that, in order to protect the stability of the Indo-Pacific and act on the "realism diplomacy for a new era" that he has been promoting, he “will say to China the things that need to be said and strongly urge China to act responsibly, while at the same time building up [their] dialogues […] on various outstanding issues and cooperating on matters of common interest”.
The Russian aggression in Ukraine gave Japan an additional incentive to contribute in areas such as nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as well as climate change, and to improve its alliance with the US by strengthening its defense capabilities. Additionally, being the only Asian country member of the G7, Prime Minister Kishida believes that “Japan’s diplomatic capacity is now truly being evaluated” and has increased his diplomatic engagements accordingly by hosting the Quad meeting in Tokyo and attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore among other engagements. Through these commitments, Prime Minister Kishida “will urge the harmonization of the stance of Asian countries and the stance of the G7” and “will create a Free and Open Indo-Pacific with like-minded countries”.