Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Saturday, vowing to bolster support for the Eastern European nation's efforts to defend against the ongoing Russian invasion as well as its recovery.
It is the first Ukraine visit by Japan's top diplomat since Moscow launched the war in February 2022. All other Group of Seven member nations had sent their foreign ministers to Ukraine since the invasion, making Japan the last to do so.
Hayashi, who embarked on a trip to the Middle East and Poland last Sunday, held talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Kyiv and told him of Japan's plan to hold a conference to promote the economic reconstruction of Ukraine at the beginning of next year in Japan, the Foreign Ministry said.
Based on a joint declaration by the G-7 leaders in July pledging each nation will "work with Ukraine on specific, bilateral, long-term security commitments," Hayashi and Kuleba agreed to craft a document on bilateral cooperation.
Hayashi said at a joint press conference following the meeting with Kuleba that the ministry will launch a new section focusing on the promotion of Ukraine's economic recovery.
Kuleba, meanwhile, described Ukraine's relations with Japan as having reached an unprecedentedly high level.
Prior to their talks, the Japanese minister visited Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv where many civilians were killed under Russian occupation in the early days of the invasion, and paid tribute in front of a memorial for the victims at a church, the site of a mass grave.
Bucha has become the most potent symbol of Russian atrocities in the ongoing war.
Hayashi also held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, with Zelenskyy expressing his appreciation for Japan's support for the war-ravaged country.
He also said Japan will provide Ukraine with Japanese crane trucks designed to remove unexploded munitions and promised support in preparations for the coming winter.
His trip comes after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's surprise visit to Kyiv in March for talks with Zelenskyy ahead of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima in May.
At the meeting with Zelenskyy, Kishida promised $470 million in grant aid for the energy sector and a $30 million contribution for the supply of nonlethal equipment through a NATO fund and invited him to virtually join in the Hiroshima gathering.
Japan has pledged over $7.6 billion in total in support for Ukraine so far and has provided assistance in various areas, including the removal of landmines and infrastructure reconstruction.
Zelenskyy attended the G-7 summit in the western Japan city in person on its closing day, with the leaders of the major democracies there vowing to support Ukraine "for as long as it takes in the face of Russia's illegal war of aggression."
With the aim of encouraging the Japanese private sector to engage in Ukraine's reconstruction, e-commerce giant Rakuten Group Inc. Chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani and other business leaders accompanied Hayashi to Ukraine, according to the sources.
Hayashi took the role of foreign minister in November 2021. Earlier this week, he toured Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Poland to hold meetings with his counterparts and their leaders.