Japan, NATO express concerns over Ukraine crisis
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (R) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe give a joint press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on May 6, 2014 - by John Thys
As Russia rejected a new peace initiative and fears of open war mounted in Ukraine, Rasmussen said the situation amounted to the "gravest crisis to European security since the end of the Cold War."
The crisis is deepening in the run-up to May 25 elections, with some 40,000 Russian troops massed on the border with eastern Ukraine where the Kiev government is under pressure from pro-Kremlin militias.
"This is not just about Ukraine," Rasmussen said.
"This crisis has serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area as a whole.
Abe said "we will tolerate any change to the status quo through intimidation, coercion or by force."
"This is not only applicable to Europe or Ukraine. This is applicable to east Asia ... this is applicable to the whole world," he said, adding: "We have to have a dialogue with Russia."
Both men stressed the importance of cooperation between NATO and Japan, which since World War II has had a 'Self Defence Force' with a limited role rather than an army which can be deployed abroad on military missions.
As such, Japan is not a member of the alliance but counts as a partner, working with it in counter-piracy and anti-terrorist efforts, as well as supporting its mission in Afghanistan.
Japan is however a close ally of the United States, with US President Barack Obama recently affirming those defence links as Tokyo views a rising China with alarm and concern.
Neither Abe, on the last leg of a European tour in Belgium, nor Rasmussen mentioned China by name.
Previously Rasmussen has stressed the need for a peaceful resolution of the many territorial disputes between Japan, China and their neighbours in Asia.
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