How will Japan answer Ukrainian president Zelenskyy’s calls for aid?

How will Japan respond to the calls from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

The Japanese government and the ruling and opposition parties must urgently consider what assistance can be provided to the Ukrainian people, who are suffering from Russia’s brutal attacks.

In an online speech to the Diet, Zelenskyy described the horrible situation in his country. “Thousands were killed, including 121 children,” he said.

Zelenskyy also expressed gratitude, saying that Japan is “the first in Asia to put real pressure on Russia,” and called for Tokyo to maintain its sanctions against Moscow. He emphasized the need to “stop the ‘tsunami’ of the invasion” of Ukraine.

The president said that the U.N. Security Council “has not worked” and needs reform, a perception shared by Japan. He also stated that Japan’s leadership can play a major role.

Zelenskyy has called for military assistance and tighter sanctions against Russia in addresses to the parliamentarians of various countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany. He spoke to Japan as well, apparently because he expects this country, which belongs to the Group of Seven advanced nations, to play a leading role in Asia taking concerted actions against Russia.

China has been stepping up its military activities in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It is important for Japan, in cooperation with other countries, to make clear its position based on the international rule that unilateral changes in the status quo by force can never be tolerated.

This was the first time that the head of a foreign nation had given an online address to the Diet. There are no screens in the Diet chambers, so a conference room with video equipment was used for Zelenskyy’s speech.

It is appropriate that the ruling and opposition parties responded flexibly, rather than adhering to precedents. The way Zelenskyy spoke in his own words was something not often heard in Diet speeches, and it likely conveyed again the weight of a leader’s address.

In addition to providing bulletproof vests and other equipment, and $100 million in emergency humanitarian aid, the Japanese government is considering further support for Ukraine and its neighboring countries. It intends to provide daily necessities and other goods through international organizations and nongovernmental organizations.

It has been one month since the start of the Russian military offensive, and the number of refugees who have fled Ukraine has exceeded 3.5 million.

Japan should coordinate with relevant organizations and actively take steps to address the grave humanitarian crisis.

The Japanese government plans to expand its readiness to accept refugees from Ukraine. In principle, those who wish to flee to Japan will be allowed to enter, and to change their visa status to one that allows them to work here.

Depending on the state of the war, their stay in Japan could be prolonged. The Japanese central government must cooperate with local governments and companies to expedite preparations to assist them, including securing housing, employment support and Japanese language education.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 24, 2022.