• Europe

With Visit to Bomb-rocked Kyiv, Foreign Minister Kamikawa Stresses Firmness of Japan’s Support

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba hold a press conference in the underground shelter of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in Kyiv on Sunday.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, now visiting Ukraine, aims to show audiences at home and abroad Japan’s continued support for Kyiv. And amid “war fatigue” in the West as the conflict with Russia drags on, Kamikawa hopes to build momentum for a Japan-Ukraine conference to promote reconstruction, which will be held in Tokyo on Feb. 19.

Kamikawa arrived in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Sunday morning after a 10-hour train ride from Poland. In the suburb — the site of many civilian deaths — Kamikawa observed a moment of silence at a cenotaph behind a church that served as a mass grave site for those killed, and inside the church she listened to an account of the horrific massacre. With tears in her eyes, the foreign minister said to a local government official who accompanied her on her tour, “I know it is freezing, but we will support you all.”

Russia has been ratcheting up missile attacks on Kyiv since the end of last year. Air raid sirens sounded intermittently on Sunday, and the venue for a joint press conference by Kamikawa and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was changed to the underground shelter of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry due to fears of a ballistic missile attack.

Kamikawa decided to visit Kyiv despite the tense situation there because, as a senior Foreign Ministry official put it, “It is an opportunity to demonstrate Japan’s role in [international] support for Ukraine” as international attention shifts to the Middle East.

Since Russia invaded in February 2022, Japan has announced $7.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offered an additional $4.5 billion in aid at a teleconference of Group of Seven leaders in December. For the G7 summit in Hiroshima last May, Japan, as chair, invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and the group adopted a statement clearly stating its continued support for Kyiv.

Kuleba expressed his appreciation at Sunday’s meeting with Kamikawa for the role Japan played as G7 chair.

On the other hand, military assistance from Japan has been limited, with directly supplied equipment limited to the Self-Defense Forces’ bulletproof vests and other minor items.

In December, the government revised the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, as well as operational guidelines for the principles, and expanded exports of non-lethal equipment to countries fending off an invasion.

The financial contribution to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization trust fund announced by Kamikawa on Sunday includes no direct exports, but is intended to strengthen indirect military support by providing drone detection systems for Ukraine.

The government plans to involve both the public and private sectors in supporting Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction, an area in which Japan excels, and aims to encourage Japanese companies to invest in Ukraine at the February conference.