Japan Struggling to Show Presence on Ukraine Aid

The Yomiuri Shimbun/AP
Prime Minister Kishio Fumida and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japan is struggling to show a strong presence in Western efforts to provide aid to Ukraine.

The United States and Europe have pledged military assistance to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, but Japan’s assistance is limited due to its restrictions on arms supplies.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aims to have his country lead the efforts as it hosts a summit of leaders of the Group of Seven major democracies in Hiroshima in May. But a government official said only, “We’re just doing what we can right now.”

The United States, Britain and Germany have outlined plans to provide Ukraine with state-of-the-art tanks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has asked for further military assistance, including surface-to-surface missiles and fighter jets.

In March, Japan eased its guidelines on defense equipment transfers overseas to provide Ukraine with bulletproof vests and helmets.

Government officials in November proposed allowing the country to export potentially lethal equipment to countries such as Ukraine that are facing an invasion by another nation.

Such assistance “is important to aid countries being invaded,” Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said at a parliamentary committee meeting on Thursday.

Members of Komeito, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s coalition partner, are concerned that such assistance will drag Japan into other nations’ conflicts.

Japan recently sent around 300 power generators and over 80,000 solar lights to help the Ukrainians survive the winter months. Using its experience in aiding land mine removal in Cambodia, Japan has started to offer similar assistance to Ukraine as well.

Kishida has said Japan’s own knowledge and strength will be useful in reconstruction efforts in Ukraine.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno stressed that Japan will “take the lead” as this year’s G7 chair for the reconstruction of Ukraine.