During his visit to Japan, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stressed on Thursday, on the unity within the G7 group of leading democratic economies over the conflict in Ukraine
“From the start of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, Japan, as a G7 partner, has clearly and resolutely sided with Ukraine, Europe and the US,” he said at a business conference in Tokyo.
“And this, even though Ukraine is, of course, much further from Tokyo than from Berlin,” he added.
Germany is the rotating head of the G7 this year and will be hosting the annual summit of the group in June in the southern state of Bavaria.
Japan is one of just three Asian countries to impose sanctions on Russia. South Korea and Singapore have also done so.
In line with Japan’s pacifist postwar constitution, Tokyo has, however, supplied Ukraine only with non-combat equipment, including reconnaissance drones and hazmat suits.
At the start of talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Scholz implied that any lifting of sanctions against Russia should be tied to the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, without Moscow laying claim to any Ukrainian territory.
He said the sanctions were being used in a bid to end the war and force the withdrawal of Russian troops “so that Ukraine can develop its own sovereignty once more.”
At a later press conference, the chancellor said Germany would organize training for Ukrainian troops in the use of howitzers provided by the US.
He also said that it was possible only to speculate on whether Russia would continue its gas exports and that it was necessary to be prepared for all eventualities.
Kishida said that Japan would stop the import of Russian coal as soon as possible and look to diversify its energy supplies.
Earlier, at the business conference, Scholz said was “no coincidence” that he had come to Japan as the first country he officially visited in the region, stressing the “deep friendship” between Tokyo and Berlin.
The chancellor also made an appeal for a different kind of globalization fit to meet present-day challenges, saying that “de-globalization” did not work.
He said it was necessary to have a sustainable and solidarity-based form of globalization with strong rules and institutions that benefited all citizens.
Security issues have dominated the agenda on the chancellor’s first visit to Asia, not only because of the war in Ukraine, but owing to increasing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
At the press conference, Kishida said he had agreed with Scholz to oppose any attempt to change the status quo in the South and East China Seas.
Japan also has its own territorial tensions with Russia, with both countries laying claim to a chain of islands off the northernmost tip of Japan, which were seized by forces of the Soviet Union in 1945.
According to the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), Japan is the second-most important trade partner for German in the Asia-Pacific region, with a trade volume in 2021 of €41.7 billion ($43.9 billion).