Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Tuesday to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky, becoming the last leader of the Group of 7 nations to go to the country as he seeks a more active role for Japan in international affairs.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has galvanized Japan's foreign and defense policies, stoking concerns about the cost of geopolitical instability. Policymakers and the public alike fear that the country will not be ready to handle crises in its own backyard, whether North Korean aggression or China's attempts to seize the self-governed island of Taiwan.
The war also raised concerns about Japan's dependence on other countries for food and energy, most of which were imported. The prices of commodities such as natural gas soared after the invasion, putting cost pressures on Japan's electricity production. In response, the country has pushed for closer ties with its allies and broke a decades-long stalemate in military spending, doubling its budget.
It is a significant change for Japan, where the constitution limits the country's ability to engage in military action and the public has long resisted any policy that would even hint at retreating from its longstanding stance of official pacifism. The increase increases spending to about 2 percent of annual economic output, aligning Japan with a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The move is seen as a signal of its readiness to play a more active role in any military crisis in the Asia-Pacific region.
In a further break from past behavior, Japan has drawn clear lines on a war in Ukraine, joining other G7 nations in imposing sanctions on Russia and providing billions of dollars in financial assistance, as well as non-lethal military assistance, such as helmets and vests. bulletproof. Late last month, Kishida pledged $5.5 billion in additional support.
Mr Kishida left for Ukraine from India, where he has met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on various issues including protecting freedom of navigation in the Pacific.
In a speech on Monday to the Indian Council on World Affairs, a research institute in New Delhi, Kishida said that Russia's war had prompted a “paradigm shift” in global affairs.
“Russia's aggression against Ukraine obliges us to face the most fundamental challenge: maintaining peace,” he said, according to prepared remarks.
Mr Kishida flew from India to Poland, where he caught a train to Kyiv, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK. The secret trip was highly unusual for a prime minister in Japan, where the leader's movements are usually broadcast in advance and reported in detail.
Hisako Ueno reporting contribution.