Japan to Increase Civilian Support to Ukraine

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announces additional support for Ukraine at a press conference on Friday.

The government is poised to boost support for Ukraine as the Russian invasion enters its second year.

Due to constitutional restrictions on the provision of military support, the government will focus on extending civilian assistance in the year it chairs the Group of Seven industrialized nations.

As a show of solidarity with Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering a visit to the country, the timing of which will be carefully assessed.

“We’ve been painstakingly implementing support for the Ukrainian people,” Kishida said at a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday afternoon. “We will continue to offer seamless support going forward.”

Japan will continue to provide assistance mainly in the civilian sphere, taking into account the most dire needs of Ukrainians.

As Ukraine has experienced electrical shortages due to Russian missile strikes on power plants and other power-related infrastructure, the Japanese government decided to send 1,500 generators over the winter.

Japan has also provided Ukrainian government officials with training in the use of the latest mine detectors in Cambodia.

Japan has pledged a total of $7.1 billion (about ¥960 billion) in support for Ukraine so far.

At Friday’s press conference, Kishida admitted that “what Ukraine needs most is equipment to fight Russia.” However, Japan’s assistance in this regard does not compare to that provided by the United States and European countries.

The Self-Defense Forces Law and the operational guidelines for the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology prohibit the country from providing equipment with lethal capability. As a result, Japan has only been able to send such defense-related equipment as bulletproof vests and helmets.

Japan, as G7 chair, is expected to play a leading role in discussions on support for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia, so attention is being focused on whether Kishida will visit the war-stricken country.

U.S. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Feb. 20.

Among the leaders of G7 members, Kishida is the only one who has not visited the Ukrainian capital since Russia launched its invasion last February.

During telephone talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in January, Kishida was asked to visit Ukraine.

“We are considering the matter, taking into account various circumstances, such as safety and secrecy,” Kishida said at a press conference.

According to government officials, Kishida wants to go to Ukraine before the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May, and is considering visiting a city other than Kyiv.

Government officials are currently exploring ways to realize the trip, working out the route and size of the delegation, among other matters.

However, Japan has limited intelligence-gathering capabilities compared to other G7 nations, so ensuring safety will be a challenge.

While the Diet is in session, it is customary to obtain the Diet’s approval for overseas visits by the prime minister. But Kazuo Kitagawa, deputy leader of Komeito, said, “There are things that can be done to ensure safety,” suggesting there will be flexibility in the ruling coalition’s approach.