Japan

Russia expels eight Japanese diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Moscow said Wednesday it was expelling eight Japanese diplomats in a tit-for-tat response to expulsions by Tokyo over the conflict in Ukraine.

Accusing Tokyo of pursuing an “openly hostile anti-Russian course,” the foreign ministry said in a statement that the Japanese diplomats must leave by May 10, in a reciprocal answer to Japan’s expulsion of eight Russian diplomats.

It accused Tokyo of “taking steps that were unprecedented in modern Russian-Japanese relations” and “abandoning friendly, constructive relations with Russia.”

Earlier this month Japan expelled the eight Moscow diplomats and announced it will end imports of Russian coal over the military campaign in Ukraine.

Japan has marched in lockstep with Western allies on sanctions against Russia since the start of the conflict on February 24.

Tokyo has complex relations with Moscow, with attempts to sign a post-World War II peace treaty hampered by a long-running dispute over islands that Japan says are “illegally occupied” by Russia.

Russia and the West have imposed a series of tit-for-tat measures over the conflict, including diplomatic expulsions and travel bans.

Meanwhile, prosecutors sent by the Japanese government have started work to support the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, Jiji Press has learned.

In early March, ICC prosecutors opened the investigation into Russia’s alleged war crimes.

By lending a hand, Japan hopes to demonstrate its intention to work together with the international community and act resolutely against behavior that undermines the foundation of the international order.

According to Japanese government sources, the country has sent three prosecutors, including from the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office. They left Japan on Saturday and arrived at The Hague in the Netherlands, where the ICC is located, on Sunday.

The three are interviewing ICC staff to find out the areas in which the court needs support. The government will consider the specific support measures it can offer after the three return in early May.

The U.N. Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, or UNAFEI, based in Tokyo’s Akishima, is considering exchanging notes with the ICC.

UNAFEI was established in 1961 under an agreement between the United Nations and the Japanese government. It is virtually operated by the Justice Ministry’s Research and Training Institute.

UNAFEI, which had made general proposals on cooperation with the ICC, will kick off formal discussions on details with the court on Thursday.

The ICC is the first permanent international criminal court set up under an agreement that took effect in 2002. It prosecutes and punishes individuals who have committed genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity or crimes of aggression.

Japan is the ICC’s largest financial contributor.

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