Why Japan Finally Got Tough on Russia

Why Japan Finally Got Tough on Russia
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio speaks about sanctions on Russia at a press conference, Tokyo, Japan, April 8, 2022 (photo by the Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images).

As Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio visits Washington to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden, the two leaders find themselves increasingly aligned on a range of issues that had long created tensions between the two allies. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent—and more surprising in Japan’s case—than on the tough line Tokyo has taken on Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.

Last year, Kishida warned before the outbreak of war that a full-scale invasion would force Japan’s hand on supporting international sanctions and other efforts to isolate Moscow. Despite years of consecutive Japanese administrations seeking to balance Tokyo’s commitments to its Western and Indo-Pacific partners with its desire to maintain cordial relations with Moscow, Kishida nonetheless followed through on his pledge. That made Japan one of the first countries to place sanctions on Russian government officials and the country’s financial sector.

Since then, Japan’s opposition to the war in Ukraine has only sharpened. Last year, at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, Kishida warned, “No country or region in the world can shrug [the war in Ukraine] off as ‘someone else’s problem.’ It is a situation that shakes the very foundations of the international order.”

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