Japan’s Fumio Kishida heads to Kyiv to meet Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Japanese prime minister to show ‘solidarity’ with Ukraine in visit that coincides with Chinese leader’s Moscow trip.

Fumio Kishida speaking at an event. There is a Japanese flag behind him.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is the only G7 leader not to have visited Kyiv since the Russian invasion [File: Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool via AP Photo]

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is on his way by train to Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a trip that coincides with a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow.

Kishida will “show respect to the courage and patience of the Ukrainian people who are standing up to defend their homeland under President Zelenskyy’s leadership, and show solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine as head of Japan and chairman of G-7,” during his visit to Ukraine, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday as it announced the trip.

Japanese broadcaster NHK showed footage of Kishida boarding a train to Kyiv at the Polish border town of Przemysl.

Kishida will show his “absolute rejection to Russia’s one-sided change to the status quo by invasion and force, and to affirm his commitment to defend the rules-based international order,” the ministry’s statement added.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, meanwhile, is in Moscow where he was welcomed warmly on Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two men held four and a half hours of informal talks and are due to convene for formal discussions on Tuesday.

Xi has put forward China’s 12-point proposal to end the war in Ukraine, which is likely to dominate the talks. There are reports that he will hold a video call with Zelenskyy after the Moscow meeting.

Kishida, who will chair the G7 summit in May, is the only leader of the group who has not visited Ukraine and was under pressure to do so at home.

In January, Kishida said the G7 summit, which will take place in Hiroshima, should demonstrate a strong will to uphold the international order and rule of law following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Due to the limitations of Japan’s pacifist constitution, the prime minister’s trip was arranged in secret.

The visit comes just hours after Kishida met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India.

Japan has joined the United States and many European nations in sanctioning Russia over its invasion and providing humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine, partly because of its concerns about the situation in East Asia, where China has become increasingly assertive in recent years.

Japan has contributed more than $7bn to Ukraine and accepted more than 2,000 Ukrainian refugees — a rare move for a country known for its strict immigration policy.

In September, the prime minister told the United Nations General Assembly that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should “never be tolerated” because it trampled on the principles and philosophies of the UN Charter.

He also expressed disappointment at the UN Security Council’s failure to act.

Russia and China are both permanent members of the council with veto powers. Japan is not a member and has long sought its reform.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies