Japan may designate Russia as a security “challenge” in its national strategy to be revised this year as Moscow invaded Ukraine, in a shift from the government’s stance to seek bilateral cooperation to resolve a territorial dispute, government sources said Wednesday.
The Russian invasion drawn sharp international condemnation, prompting Japan to oppose any unilateral use of force to change the status quo and slap sanctions against Russia, currently identified in the national security strategy as a “partner” with which Tokyo will promote peace and stability in the international community.
The assessment change would put Russia in the same category as China and North Korea. The current strategy, adopted in 2013, describes China’s military buildup and activities as “an issue of concern” to the international community and North Korea’s missile and nuclear development as substantially aggravating the regional threat.
The updated strategy will likely reflect Japan’s heightened sense of vigilance, and the government will finalise its descriptions of Russia by taking into account its aggression in Ukraine, the sources said.
The review of the national security strategy will bring into focus how Japan will find the right balance among multiple challenges. Japan needs to bolster its defenses in areas and waters closer to China and Taiwan, cope with the missile and nuclear threats posed by North Korea and address rekindled concerns about Russia.
Adopted under then prime minister Shinzo Abe, the current national security document has guided Japan’s diplomacy and defense policies. During his tenure that ended in 2020, Abe sought to resolve an unresolved territorial dispute and sign a post-war peace treaty while building close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Prime minister Fumio Kishida, who took office in October, is now planning to revise the strategy, along with two other key documents on defense policy and equipment this year.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine came at a time when no tangible progress had been made in bilateral talks between Tokyo and Moscow to resolve their dispute over a group of islets off Hokkaido.
The military onslaught since February 24 has prompted Japan to join its longtime ally the United States and European nations in holding Russia accountable for its actions that they have strongly condemned.
Kishida has said the security environment surrounding Japan is “becoming severer rapidly,” and the revised strategy will take into account the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Under the current circumstance, the government cannot foresee the prospect of bilateral negotiations between Japan and Russia over the islets, Kishida said earlier.
Some lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have been stepping up their calls for a review of Japan’s stance on Russia.
“We cannot say (Russia) is a partner to cooperate toward peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” one of the sources said.
The islets are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia. Japan maintains that they were seized illegally by the former Soviet Union while Russia claims they were obtained legally as a consequence of World War II.
The crisis in Ukraine has sent ripples beyond Europe to the Indo-Pacific region where China’s assertive moves are raising tensions. Japan has said any unilateral change to the status quo by force should not be tolerated in the region.
This is not a CAPTIS article. Originally, it was published here.