Support for Ukraine: Utilize Japan’s Strengths to Rebuild Economy

It is extremely significant for Japan to demonstrate to the international community that it strongly supports Ukraine and will not tolerate a war of aggression. As “support fatigue” spreads in the West, Japan must play a vital role.

The Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction was held in Tokyo to discuss measures for the restoration and reconstruction of Ukraine by both the public and private sectors. Cooperation was proposed in seven areas, including landmine and debris clearance, infrastructure development and agricultural assistance.

According to the State Agency for Restoration and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine, about 210,000 locations — including schools, hospitals and roads — have been destroyed in the two years since the Russian aggression began.

Japan has established technologies for debris removal and recycling based on its experience with many earthquake disasters. Also, Japanese companies have contributed to post-civil war Cambodia by utilizing landmine clearance equipment they developed.

Japan should utilize such strengths to promote support for Ukraine’s rebuilding efforts through cooperation between the public and private sectors.

The latest conference was prompted by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Ukraine last March, when the Ukraine president asked for support for reconstruction. The U.S. government, whose support for Ukraine has stalled due to infighting in congress, is said to have high hopes for Japan’s assistance.

In conjunction with the conference, the Foreign Ministry eased travel restrictions to the Ukraine capital of Kyiv for companies and organizations involved in restoration and reconstruction. The evacuation advisory that has been issued for all of Ukraine will be maintained, but the eased restrictions were approved on the condition that adequate safety measures are taken so companies can carry out support activities.

The government needs to ensure the safety of those who enter Ukraine, through such measures as keeping in close contact with them.

The aggression has been protracted, and Ukraine is in an inferior position. There is also a serious shortage of arms and ammunition.

If Russia’s outrageous actions should succeed, the world could return to an era in which major powers compete to expand their spheres of influence through military power. There are also concerns that China will further step up its hegemonic moves near Japan. The crisis in Ukraine is not someone else’s problem for Japan.

Japan restricts arms exports under the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology and other rules, and has so far only provided Ukraine with items that are not lethal, such as bulletproof vests. But is that enough for Japan to fulfill its responsibilities as a developed country?

Shouldn’t Japan consider at least providing equipment specialized for defense purposes, such as missile defense systems?

The Self-Defense Forces dispose of older-model artillery shells each fiscal year. In contrast, European countries provide the same type of ammunition to Ukraine. The handling of such equipment should also be an issue for consideration.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 20, 2024)