Japan to send senior vice minister to Sochi for Paralympics ceremony

The Japanese government decided Thursday to send a senior vice minister of sports to Sochi, Russia, to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Paralympics on Friday, officials said.

"I will depart on Thursday afternoon," Yoshitaka Sakurada, a senior vice minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, told reporters after a meeting of senior vice ministers in the government.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested Wednesday that Japan would carefully consider whether it should send a government representative to the Paralympics given Russia's move to strengthen its effective control of Crimea in southern Ukraine.

Abe at the time told a meeting of the House of Councillors Budget Committee that Tokyo would consider sending a representative to the opening ceremony in Sochi by "carefully considering moves within the international community."

The United States and Canada have said they will not send government representatives to the opening ceremony in protest amid tensions over Ukraine.

Japan's move apparently reflects its willingness to place importance on bilateral ties with Russia, as Abe has vowed to resolve a long-running territorial dispute between Tokyo and Moscow.

The Paralympics in Sochi will run until March 16.