Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Thursday to provide Africa with support for food security during his talks with Kenyan President William Ruto, as wheat prices are surging in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The leaders met in Tokyo at a time when Japan is aiming to bolster relations with Kenya facing the Indian Ocean to promote a vision of a "free and open Indo-Pacific," while trying to deepen ties with emerging and developing economies in the "Global South."

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (far R) holds talks with Kenyan President William Ruto (2nd from L) in Tokyo on Feb. 8, 2024. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Kishida also told Ruto that Japan will assist Kenya in restoring its financial health, which has been strained by loans from China for railway construction and other projects.

Kishida and Ruto reaffirmed the importance of fair and transparent financial development to alleviate Kenya's debt problems, with China criticized for engaging in "debt-trap diplomacy" using loans as leverage to gain concessions from borrowing nations.

Kishida and Ruto met for the first time in May 2023, when the Japanese premier visited Kenya's capital of Nairobi, as part of his tour to Africa.

Related coverage:

Japan hopes for early easing of tensions in Gaza: PM tells Israel

PM Kishida says Japan to play leading diplomatic role in "tense" 2024

Japan, U.S. agree on joint efforts to calm Middle East situation