Kishida’s ‘secret’ visit to Kiev not to have much impact on Ukraine crisis: experts
Published: Mar 21, 2023 11:09 PM
Fumio Kishida Photo: AFP

Fumio Kishida Photo: AFP

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Ukraine on Tuesday to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said. Experts believe the visit is more of a show that will not have much practical effect on the Ukraine crisis.

The visit, which was kept secret until right before his arrival, comes a day after Kishida met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. It is rare for a Japanese leader to make an unannounced trip to a foreign country, according to Kyodo News.

Video footage captured by Japan's Nippon Television showed Kishida boarding a train at a station in Przemysl, a city in southeastern Poland on the border with Ukraine, on Tuesday.

The international community should stick to the right direction of promoting peace talks and creating conditions for a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday during a press briefing. It is hoped that the Japanese side will make more efforts to cool the situation, rather than the opposite, Wang noted.

Kishida and Zelensky are expected to discuss Japanese support for the reconstruction of Ukraine. And Kishida plans to demonstrate Japan's commitment to supporting the country ahead of a Group of Seven summit he will host in Hiroshima in May.

In a statement released Tuesday, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Kishida's visit to Ukraine was at Zelensky's invitation, and that Kishida would return to Japan on Thursday.

During the visit, Kishida will "directly convey our solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine" and "resolutely reject Russia's aggression against Ukraine," said the statement.

For Kishida, the visit to Ukraine was a political mission, Liu Qingbin, an expert on Japan from Huaqiao University, told the Global Times on Tuesday, as the situation in Ukraine will be the focus at the G7 Hiroshima summit. "If Kishida, as prime minister of the rotating presidency, had not been to Ukraine, it would have sparked discussion," Liu said, adding that the ultimate goal of the Kishida government is to strengthen its own power, and promote reform of the United Nations.

Kishida's meeting with Zelensky is to show the Western camp's stance of solidarity and assistance to Ukraine, but this kind of meeting is more of an empty one and will not have much practical effect on the current Ukraine situation, Xiang Haoyu, a research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times. 

Kishida may invite Zelensky to attend the G7 summit in person, Xiang said.

As chair of this year's G7 summit, Japan has taken the opportunity to show its influence as a great power and has been extremely active in diplomacy. Much of the focus will be on what aid plans Kishida would announce during his visit, especially in terms of military equipment, Xiang pointed out. 

According to AP, Japan has announced a new $5.5 billion financial aid package for Ukraine in February.

Meanwhile, the Kishida government just approved three new strategic documents, which promote major adjustments to Japan's post-World War II defense and security policies from defensive in nature to one of attack. In this round of military strengthening and military expansion, Japan attempted to further break the restrictions on its export of weapons and equipment by aiding Ukraine.

Before heading to Kiev, Kishida arrived in India on Monday for a two-day visit after just seeing off South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Tokyo.

Experts pointed out that the Kishida government's recent active diplomacy mainly serves the G7 summit. The purpose is to enhance the influence of Japan's status as a great power, serve Japan's national normalization and goal of becoming a great political power and maintain the international order dominated by the US and the West in the period of change in international order. It implies the strategic consideration of containing China and Russia.

No matter whether Kishida visits Ukraine or not, and what diplomatic actions he takes, it will not change the situation of the Ukraine crisis, experts said.