Hong Kong (CNN) Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida makes a surprise trip to Ukraine on Tuesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — a day after Chinese leader Xi Jinping met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
Kishida He has already left India, where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and is now on his way to Ukraine, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.
NHK stated that his visit is the first time that a Japanese prime minister has visited a country or region that has witnessed continuous fighting since World War II. It will be the first visit to Ukraine by an Asian member of the Group of Seven and the first by a US ally in the region.
The dual visits by Kishida and Xi underscore the deep divisions in Northeast Asia over the war in Ukraine, with Japan pledging significant aid to Cave and China remaining one vote in favor of impeaching yet another Putin — now a global pariah and suspected war criminal. .
In the face of China’s increasing assertiveness and global reach, relations between Japan and the United States have warmed in recent years, particularly with regard to regional security and intelligence cooperation.
Japan is also a member of the Quartet, an informal security-focused group that includes India, Australia and the United States.
Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Kishida’s visit to Ukraine was at the invitation of Zelensky, and that Kishida will return to Japan on Thursday.
The statement said Kishida would “directly convey our solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine” during the visit and “firmly reject Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”
Kishida had previously spoken out strongly against Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour, warning last year that “today’s Ukraine may be tomorrow’s East Asia”.
Last month, on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion, Japan pledged $5.5 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, quadrupling Tokyo’s previous contributions.
Kishida said at the time: “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is not only a European affair, but a challenge to the rules and principles of the entire international community.”
During his visit to New Delhi on Monday, Kishida announced a new $75 billion investment plan in the Indo-Pacific, according to Reuters — widely seen as an effort to deepen ties with South and Southeast Asian nations and counter China’s influence. .
Xi meets “dear friend” Putin
The expected arrival of the Japanese leader to Ukraine It follows Xi’s controversial state visit to Russia, his first since the invasion began, with the first day of talks kicking off on Monday.
Beijing presented Xi’s visit as a peacemaking project – despite deep suspicions in Kiev and the West.
For the United States and most of Europe, the Chinese leader’s presence in Moscow is seen as a staunch endorsement of Putin at a time when his military is running out of supplies and Russia’s economy is suffering from Western sanctions.
Throughout the invasion, China supported Kremlin rhetoric blaming NATO for the conflict, refused to condemn the invasion, and continued to support Moscow financially by dramatically increasing its purchases of Russian fuel.
India is the only other Asian country to take a similar stance, refusing to officially condemn the Russian invasion and continuing to buy Russian oil.
Putin stated last September that it was not a time for war, in an apparent criticism – although India continued to forge a vital relationship with Moscow.
During his visit on Monday, Xi hailed Putin as a “dear friend” as they discussed the war in Ukraine and further meetings are scheduled for Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Xi planned to speak with Zelensky after his trip to Moscow, citing “people familiar with the matter.”
It will be the first time the two leaders have spoken to each other since Russia launched its invasion.
Ukrainian, Chinese and US officials declined to confirm the possible virtual meeting.
CNN’s Emi Jozuka contributed to this report.