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Mar 20, 2023
Japan Leader Kishida to Visit Ukraine on Tuesday, NHK Says
(Bloomberg) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida traveled to Ukraine for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, becoming the final Group of Seven leader to visit the country since Russia launched its invasion over a year ago.
Kishida was greeted by Ukrainian officials on arrival in Kyiv Tuesday. The Japanese premier will make clear his support for Ukraine during the visit, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. On a trip to India, Kishida condemned Russia’s invasion in a policy speech and sought to bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi closer to the G-7 nations’ position on the war.
Read: Kishida Looks to Convince India to Get Tough on Russia
The visit is the most visible symbol yet of support from Tokyo for Zelenskiy, who has spoken with Kishida at online conferences and addressed Japan’s parliament through a video link in March of last year. Japanese leaders rarely travel to places where there is a pressing security risk.
Kishida will travel on to Poland after Ukraine, the ministry said.
The visit takes place as Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, following Beijing’s proposal for a cease-fire between the neighbors. The trip to Moscow marks Xi’s most ambitious attempt yet to play the role of peacemaker as he seeks to broker an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Kyiv has been cool to Beijing’s plan, while the US and its allies have rejected it outright. After his talks in Moscow, Xi is expected to speak by video link with Zelenskiy, his first conversation since the start of the war with the Ukrainian leader.
Kishida’s government threw its support behind Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, imposing sanctions and sending military equipment — albeit nonlethal — in a break with traditions it has maintained under its pacifist constitution.
Surveys show Kishida has the backing of much of the public on the issue. A poll by the Nikkei newspaper carried out Feb. 7-10 found 66% of respondents said the government should continue supporting Ukraine, even if if has an adverse effect on their own lives.
Many in Japan have expressed fears that failing to respond to Russia’s attack could embolden China to make a similar move against Taiwan, whose stability Tokyo sees as key to its own security.
US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv in late February and met Zelenskiy, declaring “unwavering support” in a dramatic show of solidarity as Russia’s invasion neared the one-year mark.
Japan is set to host a summit of G-7 leaders this May in Hiroshima. Kishida, who has faced pressure to go to Ukraine before the summit, has said he wants to use the event to show unity on applying sanctions against Russia.
(Updates with arrival from first paragraph.)
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