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Japan, Ukraine Sign 'Breakthrough' First Security Agreement on G7 Sidelines

As the G7 summit kicked off in Apulia on June 13, the top priority for the day was the continued war in Ukraine. Here are some of the key points from Japan.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reach an historic bilateral agreement on the sidelines of the G7 Italy Summit on June 13. (©Kyodo)

APULIA ー The Group of Seven (G7) summit kicked off in Apulia, Italy on June 13 under shockingly blue skies. For Japan, the spotlight was on the guest of honor, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Nearly two and a half years have passed since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and attention was high on how G7 leaders would rally around its leader. 

For Japan, a bilateral meeting between the two leaders was scheduled for the afternoon, bringing a historic Japan-Ukraine agreement to the fore. 

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Zelenskyy signed the first-ever bilateral agreement between the two countries. It promises continued humanitarian and non-lethal aid and further support for the country's reconstruction

Non-lethal Aid in the Japan-Ukraine Agreement

On top of providing technical assistance and financial support of ¥4.5 billion JPY (about $28.5 million USD) in 2024, Japan pledged support for treating wounded Ukrainian soldiers, among other initiatives. 

The 10-year agreement also contains a clause promising consultations in the case of a renewed invasion of Ukraine at the hands of Russia.

Japan's postwar constitution prevents it from providing lethal military aid. Thereby since the start of the conflict, it has provided nonlethal items such as protective equipment and humanitarian assistance.

President Zelenskyy commented on the agreement in a post on X (formerly Twitter): "For Japan, this type of agreement and this level of support is a breakthrough. We see this and thank Japan for its unwavering solidarity with our country and people, as well as for its dedication to protecting life and international law." 

As an example of aiding reconstruction, the Japanese government hosted an event in Tokyo on February 19 called the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction. Efforts at the conference pledged ¥15.8 billion JPY ($100 million USD) in grant aid. This will assist with projects such as restoring electricity and other energy infrastructure.

Japan is the 15th country to sign a bilateral agreement with Ukraine. It follows bilaterals with countries such as France, Italy, and other European countries. Kishida last met with Zelenskyy in May 2023 at the G7 Hiroshima Summit

Kishida has been a vocal proponent for supporting Ukraine's efforts to recover from the effects of the war. In addition, he has emphasized that "today's Europe could be tomorrow's East Asia." 

US President Joe Biden and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shake hands on the sidelines of the Italian G7 Summit. (©Reuters via Kyodo)

Broader Support for Ukraine

On the same day, the United States and Ukraine also signed a 10-year security agreement, with President Joe Biden pledging support to his counterpart. That agreement included concrete pledges of military aid from the US, including support for air-striking capabilities.

Zelenskyy greeted the agreement as "historic," and commented on X: "We will ensure peace." 

Later on Thursday, the role of China in the Ukraine war was raised during a press conference involving Zelensky and Biden.

Agreements with both the US and Japan came as the G7 countries announced an additional loan to Ukraine equivalent to $50 billion for 2024. Repayment of the loan is expected to be achieved by using the interest earned on $300 billion in Russian assets frozen following the invasion of Ukraine. It is a measure seen as a sustainable way to support the Ukraine war effort. 

Biden summarized the G7 agreement saying, "Together we are showing democracies can deliver."

President Zelensky also told reporters that he had spoken to Xi Jinping,  who assured him that China would not sell any weapons to Russia. But he added that it remains to be seen whether Xi would honour his promise.

"If he is a respectable person he will not sell the weapons, because he gave me his word," said Zelensky.

At that point, President Biden jumped in to say that although China may not be supplying weapons to Russia, it is sharing the "ability to produce the weapons."

"So it is in fact helping Russia," said Biden.

G7 Spotlight on African Development

Also on the first day, the key topic of continued support for the African continent was on the G7 Summit agenda. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni forwarded the idea of African development as key to resolving the migration issue in Europe. 

On June 13, G7 leaders therefore discussed the importance of assisting countries in the African continent. Pledges included $1 billion from the US for development in Kenya. Previously, the G7 countries devised the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII). That initiative aimed to mobilize $600 billion in infrastructure investment in emerging economies. 

Japan in particular brought the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) to the table. TICAD is a process that has continued for more than 30 years. Its next conference is set to take place in August 2025. 

PM Kishida also highlighted the importance of the G20, emphasizing the necessity of listening to African voices. In a timely rotation, South Africa takes over the G20 Presidency in 2024. 

Leaders also prepared for meetings on Friday, June 14. Key points of discussion for Japan include the Indo-Pacific and artificial intelligence. 

Updated: 6 PM on June 14, 2024.


Author: Arielle Busetto