Japan Bans Russia Coal Imports in New Sanctions Round

Tokyo joined the US and European Union nations, which announced sweeping sanctions such as bans on importing coal and freezing the assets of banks and individuals

 

Japan said on Friday it would ban coal imports from Russia in a broad escalation of sanctions that included expelling eight diplomats, in some of its strongest moves yet to protest what it termed “outrageous” actions against civilians in Ukraine.

Tokyo joined the US and European Union nations, which this week announced sweeping sanctions such as bans on importing coal and freezing the assets of banks and individuals, including Russian president Vladimir Putin’s daughters.

“Russia has repeatedly violated international humanitarian law by killing civilians and attacking nuclear power plants. These are unforgivable war crimes,” prime minister Fumio Kishida told a news conference.

“With decisive measures (against Russia) and support that meets the Ukrainian people’s needs, we will make it clear that the international community will never accept Russia’s outrage and Japan stands together with Ukraine.”

In a rare move for Tokyo, the foreign ministry announced it was expelling eight diplomats and trade representatives as part of a comprehensive judgment that included condemnation of Russia’s killing of civilians.

“We call on Russian troops to immediately withdraw,” ministry press secretary Hikariko Ono told a news conference. “Its propaganda that denies killing civilians and says these incidents are faked by the west are completely unacceptable.”

The other new sanctions included a ban on importing certain Russian goods and freezing the assets of top state-owned lender Sberbank.

The decision on coal marked a change for Japan, the world’s third-largest coal importer, which initially was slow to line up with Western nations banning coal imports. Earlier, Japan had said it would only gradually reduce Russian imports.

Trade minister Koichi Hagiuda said Japan would seek alternative suppliers in the wake of sanctions against Russia after its February 24 invasion of Ukraine – a move that highlights a potential shift in import-reliant Japan’s energy procurement policy.

Russia accounted for 11% of Japan’s total coal imports in 2021, according to the government data. Russia was Japan’s fifth-biggest supplier of crude and liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2021.

Japan imports nearly all of the coal it consumes, making it the third-largest importer after India and China, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

 

  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell

 

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.