Japan Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi Mulls ‘Japan-specific’ Support for Ukraine During Kyiv Trip

Shinsuke Yasuda / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, left, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba are seen at a joint press conference in Kyiv on Saturday.

KYIV/WARSAW — Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi’s visit to Ukraine was intended to demonstrate to the world that Japan, this year’s Group of Seven chair, aims to maintain and strengthen its support for the war-torn country.

Hayashi plans to draw on Japanese private-sector know-how and use that information to formulate Japanese support measures to help rehabilitate and rebuild Ukraine.

‘My turn next’

“Japan renewed its commitment to stand with Ukraine until peace returns to this beautiful land,” Hayashi said at a joint press conference Saturday with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, following a series of meetings with Ukrainian side including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Kuleba.

Prior to the meetings, Hayashi visited Bucha, near Kyiv, where many civilians have perished, and offered flowers.

“How could humans do this to others?” Hayashi said to reporters, underlining his condemnation of Russia. “I’ve seen the shocking reality firsthand.”

Hayashi’s visit to Ukraine is not without security risks. Nevertheless, he insisted on visiting the country, based on a sense of responsibility to understand local circumstances and help take the lead on reconstruction-related issues within the international community.

Following Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s trip to Kyiv in March, Hayashi ordered senior ministry officials to coordinate a trip for him, too, reportedly saying, “It’s my turn next.”

A G7 foreign ministers’ meeting is scheduled to take place in Japan in the autumn, and Hayashi reportedly viewed a pre-meeting trip to Ukraine as an important priority.

Hayashi also was keen to push ahead with a bilateral document with Kyiv to strengthen Japan’s support based on the Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine announced by the G7 leaders in July. Unlike Western countries, Japan cannot provide strong military support, and the bilateral document therefore is intended to focus on “Japan-specific” support, with an emphasis on reconstruction.

Ukraine is said to be willing to learn from Japan about its recovery from multiple crises, including World War II and the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Some observers estimate that it will require about ¥100 trillion to rebuild Ukraine. Japan intends to call for cooperation from other Asian countries with an eye on seeking support from a wide range of countries.

Role of Japanese firms

Japanese private-sector involvement is seen as essential, too. Hayashi was accompanied on his Ukraine trip by Rakuten Group, Inc. Chairman and President Hiroshi Mikitani and others, including a president of a medical software company involved in remote medical care.

While in Ukraine, Hayashi outlined four areas for potential Japanese support: landmine clearance and debris removal; help with rebuilding people’s livelihoods, such as through the development of power and other basic infrastructure development; assistance with agricultural and industrial production; and reinforcement of governance systems.

“We want to continue to provide strong public-private sector support,” Hayashi said.

High-alert directive

Currently, Japan’s foreign ministry has a Level 4 warning in place regarding Ukraine, advising Japanese nationals against travel to, and, if appropriate, evacuating Ukraine. As such, it is difficult for Japan to provide direct on-the-ground assistance. The government intends for the time being to concentrate on providing external support to Ukraine, such as through online assistance, some 18 months into Russia’s ongoing invasion of its neighbor.

“Cooperation from the international community is indispensable to support Ukraine, and Japan has a significant role to play,” a Japanese official said.