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Finnish PM says joining NATO will strengthen security

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TOKYO (AP) — Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said the possibility of her country joining NATO was for the security of its citizens and called for the international community to unite in stepping up sanctions against Russia during talks Wednesday in Japan.

Non-aligned Finland and Sweden are set to announce their positions on NATO membership this week in what could be a serious blow to Russia as its military struggles to make decisive gains in Ukraine.

“If Finland makes this historical step it is for the security of our own citizens," Marin told a news conference after holding talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “Joining NATO will strengthen the whole international community that stands for common values.”

Marin said she and Kishida discussed “Russia's horrible aggression against Ukraine and its consequences.” She said that sanctions against Moscow need to cover energy, finance and transport sectors “more broadly than now.”

Kishida thanked Marin for traveling all the way from Helsinki while her government is deciding on NATO membership. He expressed Japan's eagerness to step up cooperation with Finland in responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and also in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region where Japan is dealing with threats from North Korea and the rise of China's military power.

Kishida said he and Marin agreed to pursue tough sanctions against Moscow and provide utmost support for Ukraine. “Changes to the status quo by force are not permissible no matter where in the world,” he said.

Japan has quickly joined other industrialized and EU countries in imposing sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. There's growing fear in Tokyo that the war may embolden China to take more assertive military actions in the East and South China Seas, where Beijing's vast territorial claims have overlapped with those of its smaller neighbors.

Japan has frozen assets of Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, and government officials and billionaires close to him as well as key banks, restricted trade and announced a decision to phase out imports of Russian coal and crude oil.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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