Japan Sanctions Russia as Moscow Calls Off Peace Treaty Negotiations

Russia lashes out over sanctions . . . 

Russia is hitting back against Japan's sanctions over its war in Ukraine. On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia would withdraw from peace treaty talks with Japan to formally end the Second World War and end visa-free travel to the Russian-controlled and Japan-claimed islands northeast of Hokkaido, referred to as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia. Moscow also said it will withdraw from discussions that would advance joint economic activities in these islands. The Russian statement noted that its actions were in response to Japan's "anti-Russia" sanctions, which it sees as damaging Russian interests. Shortly after the announcement, Russia's Embassy in London tweeted a picture of one of the islands in question with the caption, "Good morning! (Shikotan, Kuril Islands, Sakhalin Region, Russia)."

Japan ramps up the pressure . . .

Japan's Prime Minister Kishida Fumio appears undeterred in maintaining an assertive stance toward Russia. Japan's sanctions include freezing assets of Russian and Belarusian officials, oligarchs, and organizations; banning some exports to Russia and Belarus; and, measures targeting Russia's central bank and its access to the SWIFT international financial transaction system. Japan has also moved to revoke Russia's most-favoured-nation trade status, which could lead to import bans or increased tariffs on some Russian goods such as seafood. On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to 500 Japanese politicians and lawmakers, including Prime Minister Kishida and cabinet members, highlighting the need for continued sanctions and support for Ukrainians. Today, Kishida attended an emergency G7 meeting in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO meeting, where the G7 plus the EU agreed to work together to prevent Russia from evading sanctions.

What’s next?

According to a poll conducted earlier this week in Japan, 86 per cent of respondents support Japan's sanctions on Russia. However, it is less clear how the government and public will respond to the issue of Ukrainian refugees. Kishida is said to be considering sending Justice Minister Yoshihisa Furukawa to Poland to support fleeing Ukrainians, and the government has previously indicated that it will accept refugees. But what this will mean in practice for a country with an aversion to accepting refugees (Japan has accepted fewer than one thousand since 1982) and its strict COVID border controls remains to be seen.