A clumsy diplomatic dance

Updated: 2014-08-06 07:04

By Cai Hong (China Daily)

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Trying to make a gain in Russia or DPRK ties and whitewash its war history to boost polls, Tokyo has stepped on the US' toes

US Vice-President Joe Biden rang Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, saying the White House welcomed Japan's announcement that it will impose more sanctions on Russia.

The Japanese plan was put in real terms on Tuesday as the Abe Cabinet formally approved additional sanctions including the freezing of assets held in Japan by 40 people and two groups supporting the separation of Crimea from Ukraine, and a ban on Crimean imports. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the steps are in line with measures taken by European Union and G7.

However, the Abe administration has been reluctant to impose sanctions because it has its own Russia policy. As Japan's ties with China and the Republic of Korea have chilled, Abe has been pursuing an amicable relationship with Russia in the hopes of ironing out their decades-long territorial dispute, driving a wedge between China and Russia and securing energy supplies. Japanese and Russian companies are pushing ahead with projects, including a liquefied natural gas facility in Sakhalin to increase shipments to Japan and other Asian countries.

Although the United States is soliciting support throughout the world for sanctions against Russia, Abe adamantly declared in a July 19 speech that he would continue to hold dialogues with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and he has invited the Russian leader to visit Japan in the autumn.

But Abe's friendly diplomacy toward Russia has displeased its ally the United States, which wants solidarity among the G7 countries when dealing with Russia.

The US is also unhappy about Abe's diplomacy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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