Muneo Suzuki, a member of the Upper House of the Diet, recently made a five-day trip to Russia. This was the first visit to that country by a member of the Diet since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
Suzuki's conduct is highly questionable.
The veteran legislator belongs to the Nippon Ishin no Kai (Innovation Party). Within his party, however, Suzuki's statement to the Russian media that he is confident of Russia's victory over Ukraine has been called into question. Disciplinary measures are being considered on several grounds, including that he visited Russia without notifying party leaders in advance.
Who Was He Representing?
To begin with, the Japanese government has issued danger advisories for all of Russia. These go beyond mere travel advisories. Despite that fact, Suzuki insisted on making his trip.
Suzuki's words and actions while in Russia, in particular, cannot be overlooked.
Deputy Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Konstantin Kosachev, who met with Suzuki, criticized the Japanese government. He told Suzuki, "As a result of Japan's participation in sanctions against Russia, Japan-Russia relations have reached the worst level since World War II."
Suzuki reportedly replied that he thought the same way, and added, "The extremely good relationship former prime minister Shinzo Abe enjoyed with Vladimir Putin has turned negative after only one year under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida."
Such a statement defies belief. The source of the deterioration in relations is Russian President Putin's unjust, delusional invasion of Ukraine. It is totally unacceptable that Suzuki, in his distorted thinking, could countenance such aggression in violation of international law.
Ill-thought-out Advice to Andrey Rudenko
According to the Russian foreign ministry, Suzuki told Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko: "First and foremost, a ceasefire is paramount. And Russia should take the lead in doing that."
That follows other dubious statements Suzuki has made since Russia began its invasion, such as: "There are two sides to every dispute or war" and "In any fight, both sides share blame."
However, the kind of ceasefire Russia has in mind would leave it in control of all the territory it has seized in Ukraine. Moreover, the Ukrainian government led by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that there will be no ceasefire unless Russia withdraws from all the Ukrainian territory it has occupied.
So why is Suzuki parroting the Moscow line?
Putin's regime is seeking to stir up patriotism among the Russian public by substituting the slogan "war for the defense of the homeland" in place of "invasion." Muneo Suzuki must strictly refrain from acting in a way that would make him complicit in Russia's propaganda efforts to deny its illegal invasion.
Raising False Hopes on the Northern Territories
Suzuki has also long been involved in the Northern Territories issue. He therefore asked Rudenko to allow the resumption of visits to the graves of former residents of the four Northern islands.
Although we are eager to see progress made on the territorial issue, the Putin regime has stated clearly that it is not engaging in negotiations about the territory. Obviously, Moscow has no interest in solving the territorial issue.
Suzuki should face the reality that, for all of this time, Japan has been toyed with by Russia.
Muneo Suzuki met with Ishin no Kai officials on October 10 regarding his trip to Russia, which is invading Ukraine, and other issues. Ishin no Kai took steps to consider his expulsion from the party as a result of the unauthorized trip. Suzuki thereupon withdrew from membership in the party to prevent the Ishin no Kai from taking steps to penalize him.
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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun