How should Japan respond to the latest Ukraine crisis? It's important for Tokyo to use diplomacy to encourage the parties to resolve the issues with dialogue. But Japan must also maintain an unwavering stance towards Russia, which is increasing regional tensions through military pressure.
The situation remains critical. While France and Germany have engaged in the crisis as diplomatic go-betweens, we have yet to see a toehold for a breakthrough.
Talks between the United States and Russia have also been challenging. The U.S. government has sent troops to Eastern Europe and President Joe Biden has emphasized that America is "ready" should Russia invade Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine have both conducted recent military exercises, only heightening tensions. If the situation develops into a large-scale conflict, unmeasurable damage will ensue. Diplomatic efforts should never be abandoned.
Japan too, cannot just sit back and watch the Ukraine crisis, which is rocking the international order.
Japan's National Diet has adopted a resolution condemning "any attempt to change the status-quo by force" and that it was "unacceptable." The Diet demanded that the Japanese government do its utmost to ease tensions and swiftly bring peace to the region.
Following a request from the U.S., the Japanese government has decided to provide Europe with some of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) it imports. Its objective is to alleviate any potential problems in case Russia decides to restrict natural gas exports to Europe, as European countries rely on Russia for about 40% of their gas supply.
There is significant meaning in showing solidarity with friends and allies and displaying that we are united when it comes to urging Russia to reconsider its course. While Tokyo remains in dispute with Moscow over the Japan-claimed, Russia-occupied Northern Territories off Hokkaido, the two countries work together in energy-related fields. It goes without saying that a stable bilateral relationship is important.
However, it is Russia that must be held responsible, for using military force to terrorize an independent nation in a bid to violate its sovereignty and territory.
Looking at Asia, China is accelerating efforts to expand its power by might in the East and South China seas, posing a threat to surrounding countries.
More than anything, countries must abide by international rules and respect the rule of law. Any attempt to undermine this universal principle cannot be overlooked, no matter which country it is.
The only way to avoid a war is to continue negotiations toward meeting halfway, while making non-negotiable principles clear. How will Ukraine and Russia find mutually agreeable compromises? Japan must exhaust all possible measures to back efforts by the United States and European countries.