Japan Mulls Kishida-Zelenskyy Meeting in Kyiv

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida

Plans are underway to realize a February meeting between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

Japan currently chairs the Group of Seven industrialized countries and Kishida is keen to express the group’s continuing support for Ukraine and issue a joint document condemning Russia’s aggression, several government sources said.

A final decision on the proposed visit will be made after assessing the conflict situation in Ukraine, but it is thought that Kishida would most likely enter the country via neighboring Poland. In addition to Kyiv, Kishida may also visit other areas attacked by Russia. The government is using the weekend to coordinate a possible schedule for the trip so as not to affect deliberations in the ordinary session of the Diet, which begins Monday.

If the meeting comes to pass, Kishida intends to convey his intention to advance civilian assistance to Ukraine and confirm the importance of a realizing a “world free of nuclear weapons” — a goal he considers his lifework — as Russia continues to threaten Ukraine with nuclear attack, the sources said.

The two leaders held a telephone conversation on Jan.6, during which Zelenskyy asked Kishida to visit Ukraine.

The leaders of five G7 countries — the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, and Italy — have visited Kyiv since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24 last year. The U.S. secretary of state, secretary of defense, and other high-ranking U.S. government officials also have visited Ukraine, and U.S. President Joe Biden met with Zelenskyy in Washington last month. Japan is the only member of the G7 whose leader has not held face-to-face talks with Zelenskyy.

Ukraine will be one of the major themes at the G7 summit to be held in Hiroshima in May. Kishida is thus set on visiting Ukraine and conveying to the world the importance of united support for the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a news conference with European Council President Charles Michel after their meeting in Kyiv on Thursday.

However, fighting has continued to rage in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Province since the start of the year, and many people have been killed or injured in intermittent Russian attacks using drones and missiles across the country, including Kyiv. The Japanese government will therefore carefully monitor the conflict to assess whether the prime minister’s safety can be ensured when he enters Ukraine.