Japan Condemns Russia Over Belarus Nuclear Move

Belarus' President has said Russian nuclear weapons are en route to his country


Japan hit Russia with new sanctions Friday over the Ukraine war and blasted its recent moves to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. 

Working with other Group of Seven (G7) countries, Japan's foreign ministry said it will freeze the assets of 78 groups and 17 individuals, including Russian army officers, and ban exports to 80 Russian institutions and military-affiliated research labs. Japan hosted the G7 summit in Hiroshima last week. 

While the sanctions had been expected, Friday’s announcement provided a forum for Japan to condemn the deployment of nuclear weapons in Belarus, on Ukraine’s northwest border.

"As the only country to have suffered atomic bombings during wartime, Japan never accepts Russia's nuclear menace, let alone its use," Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters in Tokyo.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the planned transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus in late March. On Thursday, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said the weapons were already headed for his country, which borders three NATO nations - Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

"The movement of the nuclear weapons has already begun," Lukashenko said in Moscow, where he was attending talks with the leaders of several former Soviet states.

The Kremlin did not confirm Lukashenko's statements. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu did say Thursday that nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles had been transferred to Belarusian forces, Reuters reported, and that Su-25 military aircraft had been adapted to accommodate nuclear weapons. 

"Belarusian servicemen have received the necessary training," Shoigu said. 

The U.S. condemned the statements and the moves. “It’s the latest example of irresponsible behavior that we have seen from Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine over a year ago,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters. “As we have made clear, the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons in this conflict would be met with severe consequences.”

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