Japan said on Tuesday it stood ready to join the United States and other G7 industrialized nations in slapping sanctions on Russia, should President Vladimir Putin order an invasion of Ukraine.
The confirmation by the world’s No. 3 economy comes as the crisis in Europe worsens, with the Russian leader ordering troops into two breakaway regions in Eastern Ukraine that Russia now recognizes as independent states.
That action was “unacceptable and a violation of international law,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who called Putin on Thursday to urge restraint, told reporters.
Japan was ready for a strong response that could include sanctions, he added.
Kishida’s office said he later held telephone talks with Olaf Scholz, the leader of Germany, which holds the presidency of the G7, when the two re-affirmed cooperation on the Ukraine situation and agreed to monitor developments.
Late on Monday the White House said it would announce new sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow’s decisions and actions. A White House spokesperson added, “We are coordinating with allies and partners on that announcement.”
New sanctions by Japan, which would add to those imposed on Russia in 2014 after it occupied the Crimea, would include a ban on semiconductor chips and other key technology exports and tougher curbs on Russian banks, the Yomiuri newspaper has said.
Although Japan, with just a 10% share of the global chip market, is no longer a major exporter of semiconductors, it is a key maker of specialised electronic components, from automotive chips to image sensors, and dominates fields such as high tech manufacturing equipment.
Kishida and other government officials who spoke on Tuesday did not say what sanctions Japan was considering.
Japan’s toughening stance against Russia contrasts with the softer diplomatic approach to Moscow taken in the past. Previous governments have courted Putin in a bid to secure the return of islands occupied by Russian forces at the end of World War Two.
Japan’s delicate diplomacy has also been shaped by its reliance on Russia for some of its energy needs. In 2021, Russia provided more than 12% of Japan’s thermal coal, and almost a tenth of its liquefied natural gas.
That economic anguish, however, has been overtaken in recent years by growing concern about a revival in Russian military activity in East Asia and Moscow’s growing security cooperation with neighbouring China.
“Ukraine is facing a tense situation now, so we must firmly watch how it could affect Japan’s economy,” Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told a briefing on Tuesday.