Japan Discusses Russian Oil Import Ban With US, Europe

Japan is discussing a ban on oil imports from Russia with the United States and European countries, a government source familiar with the matter said on Monday, as Moscow’s attacks on populated areas and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine are continuing.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida says Japan still has “several options” for sanctions against Russia, stressing the need for Japan to act with Western countries to deal with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine . But he refrained from saying whether Japan would join the United States and European nations in banning Russian flights from its airspace.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a House of Councilors budget committee session on March 7, 2022 in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

As the international community intensifies pressure on Russia since its February 24 invasion, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Washington and its European allies are now considering banning Russian oil imports.

“With regard to economic sanctions, while assessing the impact on the international community, I believe that the government must work closely with the international community, including the Group of Seven nations, to show Russia that ‘A scandal such as his invasion of Ukraine will take a heavy toll,’ Kishida said at a senior session.

“Japan still has several options at hand for sanctions. We will carefully consider them and implement them,” he said.

Along with other countries, Japan has already moved to impose sanctions on Russia, such as excluding several banks from a key international payment network known as SWIFT to disrupt trade and money transfers. country money.

Japan has hinted it will take further action, although it remains reluctant to close its airspace to Russian planes. The government believes this would likely prompt Russia to take the same action against Japan and affect its transport of COVID-19 vaccines from Europe.

Kishida warned against thinking that the Ukraine crisis is “someone else’s problem in Europe”, saying “the international order covering Asia as well is shaken”.

Noting that Russia and China enjoy close relations, Kishida said the Japanese government “will pay close attention to the actions of the two countries, including their foreign policies.”

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a major oil producer, sent oil prices higher and stocks lower, with the Nikkei index ending Monday at its lowest level in about 16 months after falling more 3% in the morning.

Amid growing fears over serious potential ramifications for the global economy, there are calls for Japan to invoke a trigger clause designed to cut gasoline taxes.

Kishida told the upper house committee that he would consider all options to mitigate the impact of soaring oil prices on the Japanese economy.

But the government is likely to forego invoking the clause at least for now, as it has opted to increase subsidies to oil wholesalers.

The prime minister also condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin for ordering nuclear forces to be on high alert, saying such a threat violates the UN Charter.

He again denounced the bombing by Russia last week of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the largest in Europe.

“It is an unforgivable scandal. As a nation that experienced the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, Japan condemns it,” he said.

Japan experienced nuclear reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant following a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Kishida reiterated that the government would not consider a nuclear sharing agreement with the United States to bring American nuclear weapons into its territory.

“This conclusion is unchanged,” said the prime minister, who insisted that the idea is not in line with Japan’s three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on its territory.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have called on Japan to consider the possibility of discussing such an arrangement following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an unarmed state. nuclear weapons.

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Mary I. Bruner