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Ukraine Reconstruction Conference: Investment For the Future of a Peaceful World

At the Tokyo conference, Japanese companies supported plans to rid Ukraine of landmines and ensure its farms will thrive when the fighting ends.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction on February 19 in Tokyo. (Pool photo)

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has thanked Japan for its continued support. He says he wants the Japanese to take the lead when it comes to reconstruction of his country. He was speaking in Tokyo, as the war between Ukraine and Russia enters its third year.

At a major meeting, known as the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction, Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that with fighting continuing, the situation is not easy. However, he emphasized, a commitment to the economic reconstruction of Ukraine should be regarded as an investment for the future.

Prime Minister Kishida said this could best be achieved by the public and private sectors working together. At the conference, agreements were reached between the government of Ukraine and around fifty Japanese companies. The deals cover several fields, including landmine removal and agricultural development. 

PM Kishida shakes hands with Ukrainian PM Denys Shmyhal at the Japan-Ukraine Economic Reconstruction Promotion Conference in Tokyo on February 19. (Pool photo)

Ukraine's Appreciation

Prime Minister Shmyhal of Ukraine expressed gratitude to Japan. Tokyo has pledged more than $10 billion USD worth of financial aid since the Russian invasion of his nation two years ago. This time, an offer to provide an additional $106 million in funds for Ukraine's reconstruction was announced at the Tokyo conference.

Mr Shmyhal told Reuters he hopes that one day Japanese carmakers, including Toyota, could create production facilities in Ukraine. Elsewhere, a major investment by Toyota in the Czech Republic provided a significant economic boost to that country in 2005. Indeed, the Kolin plant near Prague continues to produce vehicles. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was scheduled to deliver remarks to the conference in Tokyo through a video message. His contribution was canceled, however, and Kyiv did not elaborate on the reason.

Arming Ukraine

The conference avoided a public debate about how weapons used by the Ukrainian army should be paid for.

Under current circumstances, Japan is constitutionally obliged to follow tight restrictions on the export of arms to countries at war. Therefore, its support for Ukraine is focused on humanitarian aid and diplomacy.


Prime Minister Kishida and his Ukrainian counterpart Mr Shmyhal issued a joint communique. It reaffirmed that intensifying sanctions against Russia is a "crucial and effective measure to deter Moscow's military activities."

When the Japanese Foreign Minister, Yoko Kamikawa went to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in January, she said that Japan would put money into a NATO fund for Ukraine. That initiative includes support for a drone-detection system. Furthermore, the parliament in Tokyo has voted to change arms export rules in relation to the United States. In turn, that may give America more scope to provide extra military support for Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy poses with G7 leaders before a working session on Ukraine during the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (© Susan Walsh/Pool via REUTERS)

Responsibility of Democracies

The Ukrainians expect democratic countries to help fund their battle against Russia. The urgency of their quest was underlined when Vladimir Putin said in a recent interview with an American journalist that the war in Ukraine "will be over within a few weeks" if the US stops supplying weapons. 

In Washington, also, the debate about aid for Ukraine has become closely linked to a domestic political discussion about policing the US border. Arguments over Ukraine have also exposed disagreements within the Republican Party relating to the international responsibilities of the United States.

Nevertheless, on February 13, the US Senate passed a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida gives a policy speech at a plenary session of the House of Representatives on January 30. (© Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

The View from Tokyo

Prime Minister Kishida made his position clear when he published an important article on international affairs in March 2023.

He wrote: "Witnessing the reality of unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force amid the severe security environment that Japan confronts, I felt a strong sense of crisis that Ukraine may be the East Asia of tomorrow."

Mr Kishida and his supporters continue to take that line. If Russia is allowed to overpower Ukraine, this would set a dangerous precedent that could ultimately undermine Japan's security.

In this light, it was significant that the recent military package agreed in the US Congress made an explicit link between the security of Europe and Asia.

As well as providing further backing for Ukraine, it also offered financial support to US allies in the Indo-Pacific. Furthermore, it supported strengthening the position of American forces in the region. Most of those are based in Japan, South Korea, and on the island of Guam.

Ursula von der Leyen and Volodymyr Zelenskiy attended the 'CEOs for Ukraine' session during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 16, 2024. (©Stefan Wermuth/Pool via Reuters)

Europe's Position

Within the European Union, a consensus on funding for Ukraine has been reached. 

"All 27 leaders agreed on an additional €50 billion Euros support package for Ukraine within the EU budget," European Council President Charles Michel wrote on X following a meeting at the start of February.

The European Commission's president Ursula von der Leyen went on to explain. She also told journalists: "We all know that Ukraine is fighting for us. So we will support them with the necessary funding and provide them with the much-needed predictability they deserve."

She explained that Europe's goals are to help Ukraine keep its administration running, pay salaries, pensions, and provide basic public services. 

"Europe has grown stronger as Ukraine continues to defend itself against Russia's aggression," said Ms von der Leyen, hailing the deal as a sign of European solidarity.

To get the funding approved, senior EU leaders put considerable pressure on the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. As the system relies on consensus, he needed to drop his threat to veto the funding before it could be finalized. Diplomats say that the EU offered Hungary various concessions to persuade Mr Orban to support the proposal.


Author: Duncan Bartlett, Diplomatic Correspondent
Mr Bartlett is the Diplomatic Correspondent for JAPAN Forward and a Research Associate at the SOAS China Institute. Read his articles and essays.

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