Foreign Minister’s Trip to 9 Countries: Japan Should Make Every Diplomatic Effort to Achieve Ceasefire

Japan has pledged continued support for Ukraine and expressed its intention to build new cooperative relations with Nordic countries. Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa can be said to have managed her first major foreign trip well so far. 

Since the beginning of the New Year, Kamikawa has been on a trip to nine countries, including the United States, Canada, Ukraine and Finland.

In Ukraine, she met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Her visit took place under tense conditions — for example, the venue for a joint press conference was hastily changed to an underground shelter following an air-raid alert.

During her meeting with Kuleba, Kamikawa expressed Japan’s intention to provide Ukraine with systems for detecting drone attacks and generators to help the country get through winter.

“Aid fatigue” has grown in the United States and Europe, which have been supporting Ukraine both militarily and economically. For Japan, which is limited in the military aid it can provide aside from non-combat equipment, it is important to continue to cooperate economically and provide humanitarian aid with an eye toward Ukraine’s future reconstruction.

In Finland, Kamikawa announced Japan’s new diplomatic initiative to carry out climate observations and resource research in the Arctic Ocean in cooperation with the five Nordic countries. Her visit to Finland is the first by a Japanese foreign minister since Shintaro Abe in 1985.

China and Russia are jointly exploring shipping routes and developing resources in the Arctic Ocean. The Japanese government should work with the Nordic countries and the United States to maintain the maritime order so as not to allow its interests to be dominated.

In Washington, Kamikawa met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. They confirmed their countries’ continued support for Ukraine and exchanged views on the situation in the Middle East.

While it is important for the United States and Japan to coordinate their foreign policies and strengthen their alliance, this alone is not enough.

To restore order, the Japanese government must lead international public opinion based on a clear diplomatic strategy. Japan needs to take a proactive stance through such actions as submitting resolutions and calling for a ceasefire and peace, by making effective use of its position as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Israel has drawn harsh criticism from the international community for its continued attacks on the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

The International Court of Justice has begun deliberation on a lawsuit demanding that Israel halt its military operations in Gaza. South Africa, which filed the lawsuit, has alleged that Israel’s attacks qualify as genocide.

Terrorism by the Islamist group Hamas cannot be tolerated, but Israel’s airstrikes, which are carried out with an apparent lack of concern for the loss of so many lives, are clearly outside of exercising its right to defend itself.

Japan should make every diplomatic effort to end this humanitarian crisis.

(From the latest edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 15, 2024)