Japan is planning to accept people fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine at an early date, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday as Tokyo ramps up its humanitarian support.
The government will first allow in people who have fled Ukraine and have relatives or acquaintances in Japan. But the door will also open to those who do not, given the severe humanitarian situation, Kishida said.
"Japan will allow in people who have fled Ukraine to third countries as we wish to show our solidarity with the people of Ukraine when the world is at a critical juncture," Kishida told reporters after speaking by phone with German and Polish leaders.
"The Ukrainian situation is tense, and refugees are growing in large numbers. We will make preparations to cope with this situation as soon as possible," he said.
While easing its border controls introduced amid the coronavirus pandemic, Japan has still maintained a cap on the number of people arriving from overseas, including Japanese nationals, at 5,000 a day.
Refugees from Ukraine will not count toward the daily limit, Kishida said.
Russia's attacks on Ukraine have forced over 870,000 people to flee the Eastern European nation, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
Poland is among the neighboring countries that have accepted such refugees. During their phone talks, Kishida told Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki about Japan's plan to accept such people.
Leaders from the United States, the European Union and Japan have agreed to extend support for Ukraine and its refugees and impose "severe costs and consequences" to hold Russia accountable.
Japan has pledged humanitarian assistance worth $100 million to Ukraine via international organizations.
The Russian aggression has drawn an international outcry and prompted a number of countries to express their support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, with major powers jointly imposing economic sanctions on Russia.
As Russian troops have escalated their attacks on Ukraine, it is uncertain whether officials from the two countries can reach a cease-fire. Their second round of talks is planned for Wednesday night, according to Russian media.
Japan has been standing firm against Russia's violation of international law banning the use of force. Tokyo has been alarmed by its ramifications for Asia where China's assertive territorial claims, coupled with its military buildup, have raised regional tensions.
Kishida agreed with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during their phone call that their countries, which share universal values such as freedom, democracy and the rule of law, have "an increasingly important" role to play in the world amid the Ukrainian crisis, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
Germany holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven nations this year and Japan is set to take over next year.
Russia's military has said it would strike Ukrainian communications and intelligence sites in Kyiv, warning nearby residents to leave.
On Tuesday, Russian forces fired at the main television tower in the Ukrainian capital, killing at least five people, its mayor said.
Japan decided to temporarily shut its embassy in Kyiv, with its operations transferred to a liaison office set up in Lviv in western Ukraine. The office will provide support to Japanese nationals living in Ukraine and those wishing to evacuate, the ministry said.
Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine started last week, the embassy's operations have been downscaled. But the Japanese ambassador to Ukraine, Kuninori Matsuda, and a few others have remained in Kyiv.
As of Feb. 27, about 120 Japanese nationals were in Ukraine. The Japanese government has called on them to evacuate and secured a chartered plane to transport them from Poland to a third country.
The Japanese government now has a liaison office in the southeastern Polish city of Rzeszow to help Japanese citizens leaving the neighboring Ukraine.
In his talks with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Kishida asked for assistance in evacuating Japanese nationals and Morawiecki promised to cooperate as much as possible, the ministry said.
Japan has already raised its travel warning for the whole of Ukraine to the highest level.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Wednesday requested that Japanese nationals refrain from traveling to Ukraine "regardless of purpose," when asked about the recruitment of foreign military volunteers by the Ukraine Embassy in Tokyo.
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