Japan to freeze assets of 25 more Russians over Ukraine invasion

Japan will freeze the assets of 25 more Russians and prohibit exports to 81 Russian organisations in response to Moscow’s war in Ukraine, the country’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

The move comes after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday Japan will take steps to revoke Russia’s “most favoured nation” trade status and prevent domestic cryptocurrency exchanges from carrying out transactions with sanctioned entities.

Tokyo has unveiled a raft of punitive measures against Russia in recent weeks, including sanctions focusing on the deputy chiefs of staff for President Vladimir Putin’s administration, the head of the Chechen Republic, and executives of companies with close ties to the Kremlin.

The East Asian country has also targeted Russia’s central bank, restricted the country’s access to the SWIFT international payments system, and banned exports of Russia-bound oil refinery equipment.

Leading Japanese firms including Toyota, Honda, Nintendo and Sony have also halted exports to Russia, citing concerns about logistics, supply chains or safety.

Japan, one of the United States’s closest Asian allies, has adopted a tougher line against Moscow than other countries in the region, most of which have declined to assign blame for the conflict. Apart from Japan, only South Korea, Singapore and the self-ruled island of Taiwan have announced sanctions against Moscow.

Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo, told Al Jazeera Japan’s strong response to Russia reflects its own concerns about China’s ambitions in its back yard, including claims to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands and self-ruled Taiwan.

“Japan seeks to rally support for its position that territorial disputes should be resolved without resort to force or coercion and based on international law,” Kingston said of Tokyo’s “unusually robust sanctions”.

“It is especially concerned about China’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia and worried about the implications of Ukraine for Taiwan. It is standing with NATO in Europe in expectation that this solidarity will be reciprocated in Asia and deter China from invading Taiwan.”

“I think the rest of the region is ambivalent about this conflict and doesn’t want to get drawn into Cold War II,” Kingston added, arguing there is “little enthusiasm among most Asian leaders to choose sides in what they see as a Cold War between the US and China in Asia”.

China, which has declared its friendship with Russia to have “no limits”, has refused to label Moscow’s military offensive an invasion and has condemned sanctions against its strategic partner.

Some Chinese state-owned financial institutions, however, have stopped financing deals involving Russian commodities, which analysts say reflects Beijing’s reluctance to openly violate sanctions and risk losing access to Western export markets and the US-dollar-centric financial system.