Updated: 03/08/2014 01:48 | By Agence France-Presse

Abe promises Japanese support for US in Ukraine crisis

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday assured President Barack Obama that Tokyo would back US efforts to address the Ukraine crisis after Washington lined up sanctions on Russia, an official said.

Abe promises Japanese support for US in Ukraine crisis

A demonstrator holds an anti-war sign during a pro-Ukrainian rally in Moscow on March 7, 2014 - by Dmitry Serebryakov

The pair held telephone talks in which Obama "explained the stance of the US government in the Ukraine situation", Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesman, told reporters in Tokyo.

"Prime Minister Abe told (Obama) that Japan will support President Obama's efforts and hopes for quick progress in the Ukraine situation," Suga added.

"The two sides agreed that Japan and the United States will continue to maintain close communications, while agreeing on the significance of respecting Ukraine's sovereignty."

Criticism of Moscow is a difficult balancing act for Abe as he moves to resolve a decades-long territorial dispute with Russia and build economic ties.

The United States on Thursday imposed visa bans and set the stage for wider sanctions against Russia, warning any move to split the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine would break international law.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida separately said Friday that Tokyo would consider extending financial assistance to cash-strapped Ukraine via the International Monetary Fund, Kyodo News agency reported.

Asked if Japan would impose sanctions on Russia, Kishida did not give a definitive answer, the agency added.

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