Japan is to cancel a planned visit to Russia this month by the country's foreign minister, as Tokyo closes ranks with its Western allies over Moscow's takeover of Crimea, a report said Wednesday.
Even after the cancellation of the Group of Eight meeting of foreign ministers scheduled for April 28-29, the Japanese government was still hoping to send Fumio Kishida to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.
But that plan has been shelved over fears that Tokyo could be accused by the United States and European powers of not being tough enough on Russia, the report said.
An economy ministers' meeting focused on energy ties that was planned on the sidelines of the foreign ministerial talks will also be cancelled, it said.
Tokyo has fallen into line with Washington and its allies in tightening the screws on Moscow after its amputation of the Crimean peninsula last month, and as Russian troops remain massed on the Ukrainian border.
Involvement in the isolation of Moscow is a difficult political calculation for Japan, which is entirely dependent on imports for its energy. Russia is a key global supplier of gas.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has held multiple summits with Russian President Vladimir Putin since coming to office in late 2012, and was one of the few pro-Western leaders who attended the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Others stayed away to register disquiet over Moscow's anti-gay laws.
The Japanese leader has been pushing to expand economic ties and resolve a decades-old territorial conflict at a time that Tokyo is embroiled in separate disputes with China and South Korea.
The current crisis, in which Moscow's critics accuse it of trying to redraw the Soviet empire on the modern-day map of Europe, risks derailing those efforts, including a bid to sign a treaty formally ending World War II hostilities.
Wednesday's Yomiuri report came as the U.S. Congress passed an aid package for Ukraine that includes sanctions against Russia, and after NATO said it had suspended all cooperation with Moscow.
A foreign ministry official in charge of Russian issues told AFP the government there had been no decision on the trip, but declined to comment further.© (c) 2014 AFP