As the tensions in Crimea continue to mount, Japan has called for a peaceful resolution on the issue with Russia and Ukraine. However, it says the idea of a local referendum asking Crimea to join Russia is unconstitutional and in direct violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Japan joined the stand of other Western countries, which rejected the scheduled referendum on March 16. Speaking to reporters, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We see (the referendum) as against the Constitution in Ukraine and also problematic in terms of protecting territorial integrity.” Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a separate press conference, also called for the respect of international law by all parties. “We have been urging all parties concerned to act carefully in a self-restrained and responsible manner, scrupulously abide by relevant international laws, and respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said. On the issue of Japan-Russia relations, he also stressed that furthering their burgeoning diplomatic relations “will benefit national interests.” As such, Japan will send Shotaro Yochi, head of the secretariat of the new National Security Council to Russia discuss the issue of Ukraine with officials there.
The situation in Ukraine has placed Japan on uncertain ground as it delays choosing sides between its longtime ally, the United States and Russia, which Japan has developed a close relationship with in recent months. A territorial dispute over islands near Hokkaido, which Japan calls the Northern Territories and Russia calls the Southern Kurils, has been on going for almost 70 years between the two nations and has impeded the development of good bilateral relations. But in recent months, Abe has prioritized improving relationship with Russia for economic and strategic reasons, such as Russia’s energy supply to Japan.
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