Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stopped short of expressing clear support for US-proposed sanctions against Russia. Observers said Abe apparently did not want to harm relations with Russia.
Abe had a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama on Friday about the crisis in Ukraine.
The 2 leaders confirmed that Japan and the US will closely cooperate with their Group of 7 partners in responding to the crisis.
Obama sought Abe's understanding for imposing sanctions, but Abe only said that he supports Obama's efforts aimed at improving the situation in Ukraine.
A high-ranking Japanese government official said 'supporting Obama's efforts' does not mean Japan will totally follow the US's lead.
The official added that the European Union has also stopped short of including asset freezes in its initial sanctions against Russia.
Japan is apparently concerned that if its relations with Russia deteriorate, it could have negative effects on negotiations to resolve the dispute over 4 Russian-controlled islands off Japan's Hokkaido.
Mar. 7, 2014 - Updated 22:33 UTC