Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he will attend this month’s NATO summit in Madrid, becoming the country’s first leader to join a top meeting of the transatlantic group.
The announcement on Wednesday comes ahead of a June 28-30 gathering of the military alliance that is seen as a crunch moment for its 30 members, four months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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Sweden and Finland, which have applied to join NATO, are sending delegations to the summit, and South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol will also be the first leader from his country to attend.
Japan, a key United States ally and not a NATO member, has delivered defensive supplies to Ukraine and imposed tough sanctions on Russia in tandem with the other Group of Seven (G7) countries.
“As the only Asian country in the G7, Japan’s diplomatic capabilities are being tested,” Kishida told reporters.
His attendance at the NATO summit will be “the first time for a Japanese prime minister”, he said, adding that he intends to highlight the link between security concerns in Europe and Asia.
Kishida has already pledged significant strengthening of Japan’s military capability and budget.
He said protecting lives and turning around the economy were his key promises since he took office, and that “I will fulfil my responsibility as prime minister by keeping the promises.”
In recent weeks, Kishida has hosted a summit of the Quad grouping of nations and has made trips to countries including Singapore, where he gave a keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit on Friday.
“I myself have a strong sense of urgency that Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow,” he warned there.