Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has visited Ukraine as it continues to fight Russia's invasion. Especially as Japan holds this year's Group of Seven presidency and will host the upcoming G-7 summit, Kishida's trip has significance in expressing solidarity.
It was the first time a Japanese prime minister has visited a combat zone since the end of World War II. Kishida announced Japan's additional assistance measures to Ukraine during talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. Kishida promised to contribute $30 million in nonlethal equipment supplies through a NATO trust fund, and make a bilateral development donation of $470 million for energy and other fields. These will bring Japan's total aid to Ukraine to $7.6 billion.
While the United States and European countries are supplying Ukraine with weapons, such as tanks, missiles and ammunition, Japan has retained its cautious stance to overseas arms transfers based on its pacifist Constitution. Tokyo has so far provided bulletproof vests, protective masks and clothing, among other nonlethal gear.
Some within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are calling for revisions to Japan's "Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology" regulating arms exports, with the potential contribution of lethal equipment in mind.
However, Japan should not use the Ukraine crisis to undermine the three principles, which include a ban on sending defense equipment to "a country party to a conflict." The government also needs to clearly explain to the public details of equipment supplied through the NATO fund.
In a joint press conference, Ukraine's Zelenskyy expressed his high hopes for humanitarian and recovery support from Japan. This country has a proven track record in land mine removal training, cultural property protection, education and governance improvement, and other areas. Tokyo should focus on strengthening its efforts utilizing this know-how.
Prime Minister Kishida arrived in Kyiv by train via Poland after flying in from India, where he had paid an official visit. His trip to Ukraine was carried out in secret, without obtaining the customary prior approval from the Diet. While this was necessary for security reasons, he needs to report on it at the Diet and have a question and answer session soon.
The Ukraine crisis will be one of the main topics to be discussed during the G-7 summit to be held in Hiroshima in May. Zelenskyy will join the meeting online.
A G-7 meeting is a valuable forum for leaders who share values such as freedom and democracy to frankly talk about global challenges. We hope that Kishida will make the most of his Ukraine visit for fruitful discussions.