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EDITORIAL | Beyond Solidarity Gestures, Give Ukraine Lethal Aid vs Invaders

Japan supports Ukraine by providing financial and humanitarian aid. It would be desirable to also ease its rules on the transfer of defense equipment.



Kishida Ukraine
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (center) visits a church in Bucha near Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 21. (© Kyodo)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit on Tuesday, March 21, to Kyiv, Ukraine. After his trip to India, he flew in the night into Poland before taking a train to the Ukrainian capital. This was all kept under wraps with no prior announcement.

At a church in Bucha, near Kyiv, Kishida mourned the victims who were massacred there by Russian troops. Later on, he also held a summit meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

A Trip That Needed to Happen

Kishida's decision to visit is highly commendable. This is the first time since World War II that a Japanese prime minister has visited a country engaged in a war on its own soil. The trip is a significant demonstration of solidarity and Japan's ongoing support for Ukraine in its fight against those invading it. 

At the summit, PM Kishida condemned Russia's aggression and reaffirmed the G7's support for Ukraine. He also confirmed Japan's commitment to maintaining sanctions against Russia.

Until now, Japan had been the only G7 country whose leader had not visited Kyiv. Furthermore, as the G7 chair for 2023, Japan will host the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May. This trip needed to happen for Kishida to be able to rally solidarity and support for Ukraine within the G7.

Two Contrasting Messages

Kishida's visit furthermore exemplifies the solidarity of both the West and the nations of Asia.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been trying to play peacemaker between Ukraine and Russia. He visited Russia for three days until March 23, renewing his "eternal friendship" with the instigator of the war: President Vladimir Putin. The contrast between the positions presented by Japan and China cannot be clearer.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (fourth from left) at the summit meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on March 21. (© Cabinet Public Relations Office)

PM Kishida had been seeking to visit Kyiv since 2022, but security and confidentiality impediments made it difficult. Although he was the last G7 leader to visit Ukraine, his visit dispelled any doubts about Japan's stance.

Kishida's visit was made public while he was on the train from Poland to Kyiv. In contrast, most other countries had only made the announcement after their leaders arrived. The timing of the announcement was likely due to concerns that word of his visit might spread after it was made known to ruling party members and reporters on the train from Poland.

Although no problems seem to have arisen this time, the government may need to consider more effective ways to ensure the Prime Minister's security and confidentiality in the future.

Zelesnkyy Ukraine
Self-Defense Forces personnel are loading supplies to Ukraine into the KC767 aerial refueling aircraft. ASDF Komaki base in Aichi Prefecture on March 8, 2022. (Kyodo)

Japan's Ongoing Support for Ukraine

Japan is currently supporting Ukraine by providing financial and humanitarian aid, non-lethal defense equipment, and diplomatic encouragement.

There may be a limit on the amount of defense equipment Japan can provide as it is currently in the midst of developing its own defense capabilities.

However, it would be desirable to ease the rules on the transfer of defense equipment. The provision of lethal aid in the form of equipment should also be an option to help the aid recipient fend off invaders.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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