The Ambassador of Japan to Ukraine Toichi SAKATA is Den’s frequent guest. Last summer, he was the first foreign ambassador to become a lecturer at Den’s Summer School of Journalism and talked to students and journalists for over two hours. These days Sakata came to the editorial office to exchange thoughts with editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna on the current situation in the country and talk about the ways Japan can help Ukraine get out of the financial and economic crisis caused by the change of the government and the conflict with Russia over the annexation of Crimea.
It is known that Japan supported the UN resolution of March 27, which was voted for by 100 countries and which condemned the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Den started the conversation with the ambassador with this topic, why it was important for Tokyo to support this position.
“Japan was a co-author of the UN General Assembly resolution and decided to support this document because of the following. In particular, we consider the events that took place in Crimea to be completely illegal actions that do not correspond to principles acceptable at the international arena. Attempts to change the integrity of the territory with the application of force cannot be ignored. That is, the annexation of your territory by Russia is a blunt violation of the international law and agreements designed to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent country. Borders cannot be changed with the use of force and other means implemented by Russia.”
But how can Russia be forced to give Crimea back to Ukraine and take its troops out of it?
“Japan has already announced its position within the framework of cooperation with the G7. In particular, this union has already published three statements in relation to the Russian Federation’s activity in Crimea. Japan is going to resume the cooperation with the G7 countries and other partners to settle this problem. I think that the primary task now is the de-escalation of the tense situation in Ukraine. And it is crucial to solve the issue by diplomatic and political means. From this perspective, it is very important to have a direct dialog between Ukraine and Russia, and also other international partners, including the US and the EU, with Russia. Japan hopes for the successful conduction of the dialog with these parties and peaceful and diplomatic settlement of the situation in Ukraine.”
“IT IS IMPORTANT TO PROTECT THE SOVEREIGNTY AND TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY”
Do you believe that Ukraine can return Crimea through dialogs, or other tools must be used?
“I know, the Ukrainian people are convinced that Crimea has to remain as a part of Ukraine. As I have already noted, the annexation of Crimea by Russia is viewed by Japan as an openly unlawful action. But at the given moment, it is impossible to indicate the specific way Crimea will be reclaimed by Ukraine. First of all, a bilateral dialog between Ukraine and Russia is needed to see some sort of prospect in the solution of this issue. Japan is ready to contribute to the start of such a dialog and support Ukraine’s position.
“By the way, I would like to add something about the UN resolution which was adopted recently. This resolution is very important for Japan, because the annexation of Crimea is not only Ukraine’s problem, it is a problem of the whole world. That is why we need to show how important it is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent country. This is a very important issue for Asia, Europe, and for guaranteeing global security. That is why Japan decided to become a co-author of this resolution and support it.”
Did your country impose sanctions on Russian government officials, as the US and the EU did?
“Japan has already implemented some sanctions against Russia. In particular, negotiations on the simplification of visa regime between Japan and Russia were suspended, and negotiations about cooperation in such areas as investments, space technologies, and military cooperation with Russia were put on hold.”
Mass media notified today that the Japanese government has removed almost a 50-year-long ban on the export of arms. Is this related to the latest actions of Russia in Crimea?
“It is not linked directly to the sanctions against Russia I just told about. Earlier, Japan had a very specific position as for arms export. It did not want to be implicated in wars or conflicts. And now the situation in the security sphere has changed, in particular, Asia turned out to be in the thick of events, which made Japan review the existing viewpoint and lift the ban on arms export, but only under specific circumstances.”
“WE FIND IT EXTREMELY VITAL TO BRING ECONOMIC STABILITY BACK TO UKRAINE”
The EU and the US think Ukraine requires financial aid right now in the first place. Correspondingly, the United States offered a loan of a billion dollars, and the European Union is going to provide a package for a total amount of 11 billion euros. Your country is going to provide one and a half billion dollars. Is this related to the current situation, or were there other considerations as for providing this help, which, by the way, is the largest sum ever offered by an individual country?
“As for this aid, Japan understands that Ukraine is in a complicated situation in the political as well as in the economic sense. We find it extremely vital to bring economic stability back to Ukraine. Therefore, Japan decided to provide almost one and a half billion dollars of financial aid. We think that steady economic growth will lead to political stability. We discussed the matters of providing financial aid within the framework of G7. We hope this support will promote the development of Ukraine and the world in general.”
When will Ukraine be able to receive this aid? Does the allocation of these funds depend on the fulfillment of the IMF’s demands?
“Of course, the provision of this aid is related to the IMF. We are glad your government settled the conditions of providing new aid by the IMF with its technical mission. It is clear that carrying out quality reforms by your government was the major demand. As for specific terms and conditions of providing this aid, I am sure negotiations on the level of responsible persons from both countries will start soon.”
“I SPOKE FROM THE MAIDAN STAGE ONLY ONCE, BUT I STILL REMEMBER IT VERY WELL”
I know that you have been on Maidan. How did you feel when clashes between the Right Sector and internal troops broke out near the Embassy in Hrushevsky Street?
“(Laughs.) Let me explain. Yes, I visit Maidan often. But indeed, due to the clashes that took place in Hrushevsky Street at the end of January, we had to temporarily shut down the embassy, unfortunately. Till the end of February, when the new government was created, the situation was complicated, especially on Maidan and in other Ukrainian cities. Firstly, we asked your Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure the safety of Japanese citizens who were in Kyiv or other Ukrainian cities back then. Secondly, we notified that our embassy was closed.
“In March, when the Crimean problem started, the situation on Maidan began to stabilize a bit. I remember this well, because I visited Maidan once a week. And finally, on March 21, we were able to come back to the embassy to resume our work. Even though the barricade remains in Hrushevsky Street, we are glad we can work according to our regular hours.
“By the way, I remember very well when we spoke from the Maidan stage on March 9 on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of Taras Shevchenko’s birthday.”
I saw it on television.
“At that time, Japanese student of Shevchenko’s life and work Etsuko Fujii was here, she recited Shevchenko’s poems from the Maidan stage in Japanese. I spoke from the Maidan stage only once, but I still remember it very well. Perhaps, I will never forget it.”
It is known that Russia viewed all ambassadors of the EU, the US, Canada, and Japan who were present at Maidan as Western agents, almost supporters of “fascists and Nazis,” who committed a coup in Ukraine and ousted the legal government. What do you think about this?
“I know that the media of various countries, especially Russia, provide news about alleged fascists’ provocations during Maidan. We cannot comment upon specific persons, who attend maidans or join protests in other cities. But I want to emphasize that the new government, which has been formed with the comprehensive support of the legitimate Verkhovna Rada, is absolutely legal. In other words, there are no grounds to deny this. The procedure was preserved absolutely, and Yatseniuk was chosen as a prime minister. There can be no doubts as for the legitimacy of the new government.”
“JAPAN WILL ALWAYS RESPECT THE WILL OF THE UKRAINIAN PEOPLE”
How can you comment on the fact that people fought for the European choice on Maidan, and Russia is trying to create a Eurasian Union and pressurize Ukraine into joining it. And now after Russia annexed Crimea, do the Japanese see the threat of creation of a union that would be based on an anti-Western ideology?
“As far as I know, Japan does not have a clear stand as for the creation of the Eurasian Union. Personally I can say that the creation of such a union is the choice of Russia. But on the other hand, the Ukrainian people must demonstrate their position as for what they want or do not want to join. I think that the will of the Ukrainian people is the most important here. And Japan will always respect the will of the Ukrainian people.”
This is the second time you have visited our newspaper’s editorial office in the past eight months. What attracts you so much in The Day?
“My first impression is that your newspaper researches every topic very deeply. As far as I understand, The Day is a wise newspaper in Ukraine, it is read by people who work in intellectual circles or those who are deeply involved in Ukrainian society.”
The Day’s FACT FILE
Based on the current situation of Ukraine, Japan will extend the assistance totaling around 150 billion Japanese yen (approx. 1.5 billion USD) at a maximum as follows
ODA Loan following the Ukraine government’s commitment toward the economic reform
The Fiscal Consolidation Development Policy Loan as a parallel lending with the World Bank
Under the framework of international support led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Japan, in coordination with the World Bank, will provide funds necessary for Ukrainian economic reform in line with appropriate burden sharing with agencies and countries. Japan will extend a total of up to 10 billion Japanese yen loan (approx. 0.1 billion USD) as the Fiscal Consolidation Development Policy Loan in coordination with the World Bank’s financial support on the condition that the package of the IMF support for Ukraine is established.
Modernization of Bortnychi Aeration Station in Kyiv city
In response to the urgent needs of Kyiv citizens for the improvement of their hygiene and living condition, Japan will extend an ODA loan totaling up to 110 billion Japanese yen (approx. 1.1 billion USD) for modernization of Bortnychi Aeration Station plan by the Ukrainian government.
Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI)’s credit line of trade insurance
Nippon Export and Investment Insurance (NEXI) will continue to undertake short term trade insurance and build a credit line up to 30 billion Japanese yen (approx. 0.3 billion USD) for 2 years so as to support import of goods and services required for stabilization of the Ukrainian national life.
Non-Project Grant Aid
Japan will provide non-project grant aid totaling 350 million Japanese yen (approx. 3.5 million USD) for import of medical and other equipment requested by the Ukrainian government.
Technical Assistance by Japan EBRD Cooperation Fund and JICA training programs
Technical Assistance by Japan European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Cooperation Fund and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)’s training programs will be provided in response to Ukraine’s needs such as the macro economics, energy, and private sector development.