TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is en-route to the Ukrainian capital for face-to-face talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Kishida, who just wrapped a two-day state visit to India’s leader Narendra Modi, arrived by car at Poland’s Przemysl station just after 1 a.m. local time on Tuesday.
Broadcaster NHK showed images of the leader exiting a black car then boarding a Ukraine-bound train which departed minutes later. The leader was accompanied by two other high-ranking government officials.
Japan’s prime minister had been the only G7 leader who had not visited the war-torn country since the Russian invasion began. Zelenskyy extended an invitation to Kishida in January when the two leaders spoke by telephone.
Since World War II, no Japanese head of state has visited a country or region with an active combat zone.
In Kyiv, Japan’s leader is expected to convey support for the embattled nation.
“Prime Minister Kishida will resolutely reject Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and unilateral changing of the status quo by force, and reconfirm his determination to uphold the international order based on the rule of law,” said a statement issued by Japan’s government soon after news of the trip broke.
The two leaders are expected to discuss humanitarian assistance and support for post-war reconstruction, including landmine removal. Japan has offered $1.5 billion to Ukraine and neighboring countries that have accepted evacuees displaced by the war.
Kishida recently warned that “Ukraine may be the East Asia of Tomorrow,” as fears mount over China possibly forcibly reunifying with democratic Taiwan. The Japanese leader has urged likeminded countries which share the same values to unite in order to prevent the invasion of Ukraine from being repeated.
Despite the nation’s pacificist past, Japanese officials have said they’re seeking to grow their military spending, aiming for a defense budget equal to 2% of GDP by 2027, putting the nation on par with NATO’s defense spending standard.
Following the face-to-face talk with Zelenskyy, Kishida will head to Poland for talks with President Andrej Duda.
“The leaders will confirm their commitment to strengthen the bilateral cooperation as well as that of the international fora, including response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, based on the strategic partnership with Poland, which is the frontline of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine,” said Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Prime Minister Kishida is expected to arrive back in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, on Thursday.