Japan’s Fumio Kishida arrived in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on Tuesday to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, broadcaster NHK said, a rare, unanounced visit by a Japanese leader that signalled Tokyo’s emphatic support against Russia’s invasion.
Kishida is due to voice support and solidarity with Ukraine following the invasion by Russian forces more than a year ago, Japan’s foreign ministry said.
He will also convey “his respect for the courage and perseverance of the Ukrainian people standing up to defend their homeland,” it said.
His trip coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia. In what appeared to be a response to his visit, Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that two of its strategic bomber planes flew over the Sea of Japan for more than seven hours.
Kishida’s trip also comes as Japan is due to a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) wealthy nations in his hometown of Hiroshima in May. Although Japan has continually voiced support for Ukraine and joined other G7 countries in extending sanctions against Russia, Kishida had been the only leader G7 leader not to visit Ukraine.
His trip was kept secret until the last minute for security reasons. It is rare for a Japanese leader to make an unannounced visit to another country.
Public broadcaster NHK showed footage of Kishida talking to officials after his arrival in Kyiv by train, which he had taken from the Polish border town of Przemysl.
Kishida has said that the G7 summit should demonstrate a strong will to uphold international order and rule of law in response to the Ukraine war.
Japan, a key ally of the United States, has its own territorial dispute with Moscow that dates back to the end of World War Two. Russia’s invasion has also deepened concern in Tokyo and among the Japanese public about what would happen to Japan if China were to invade Taiwan.
Encouraged by the United States, Japan in December unveiled its biggest military build up since World War Two, with a commitment to double defence spending to 2% of GDP within five years.
Kishida will also hold talks with his Polish counterpart before returning to Japan on Thursday, the ministry said.
Prior to leaving for Poland en route to Ukraine, Kishida visited India, where he met his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.