Japanese Prime Minister Kishida presides over Kiev, Ukraine for talks with Zelensky

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was flying to Kiev early Tuesday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to coincide with the Chinese leader’s visit to Moscow.

Kishida will show “respect for the courage and patience of the Ukrainian people standing up to defend their homeland under the leadership of President Zelensky, and will show solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine as President of Japan and Chairman of the Group of Seven,” during his visit, Japan’s foreign ministry said in announcing his visit to Ukraine.

The ministry statement said Kishida would demonstrate in the talks his “absolute rejection of Russia’s unilateral change of the status quo through conquest and force, and reaffirm his commitment to defending the rules-based international order.”

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is in Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin warmly welcomed Xi to the Kremlin, a visit that the two countries described as an opportunity to deepen their “boundless friendship”.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida boards the train in Przemysl, Poland, early Tuesday, March 21, 2023, heading to Kiev for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Prime Minister Kishida boards a train in Przemysl, Poland, early Tuesday, March 21, 2023, heading to Kiev for talks with Ukrainian President Zelensky.

Japanese public television NHK showed Kishida boarding a train from Poland to Kiev. His surprise trip to Ukraine comes just hours after he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Kishida, who will chair the G7 summit in May, is the only G7 leader who has not visited Ukraine and has been under pressure to do so at home. US President Joe Biden took a similar route to visit Kiev last month, ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Due to the limitations of Japan’s pacifist constitution, his trip was arranged in secret. Kishida is the first post-war leader of Japan to enter a war zone. Kishida, who was invited by Zelensky in January to visit Kiev, was asked before his trip to India about a rumor about his possible trip at the end of March, he denied it and said no concrete decision had been taken.

Kishida is expected to provide continued support to Ukraine when he meets Zelensky.
AFP via Getty Images

Japan joined the United States and European countries in punishing Russia for its invasion and providing humanitarian and economic support to Ukraine.

Japan has been quick to respond because it fears the potential impact of the war in East Asia, where the Chinese military has become more assertive and heightened tensions over self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory.

Kishida is expected to provide continued support to Ukraine when he meets Zelensky.

Television footage on NHK showed Kishida boarding a train from Poland’s Przemysl station near the border with Ukraine, along with several officials.

Due to its pacifist principles, Japan’s support to Ukraine was also limited to non-combat military equipment such as helmets, bulletproof vests, and drones, and humanitarian supplies including generators.

Japan has contributed more than $7 billion to Ukraine, taking in more than 2,000 displaced Ukrainians and assisting them with housing assistance, job support and education — a rare move for a country known for its strict immigration policy.

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