KYIV, March 21 – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit Tuesday to Kyiv, engaging in dueling diplomacy with Asian rival President Xi Jinping of China, who met in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin to promote Beijing’s peace proposal for Ukraine that Western nations have all but dismissed as a non-starter.
The two visits, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) apart, highlighted how countries are lining up behind Moscow or Kyiv during the nearly 13-month-old war, The Associated Press reported. Kishida, who will chair the Group of Seven summit in May, became the group’s last member to visit Ukraine and meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, after paying tribute to those killed in Bucha, a town that became a symbol of Russian atrocities against civilians.
Xi and Putin announced no major progress toward implementing the Chinese peace deal, although the Russian leader said it could be a basis for ending the fighting when the West is ready. He added that Kyiv’s Western allies have shown no interest in that.
U.S. officials have said any peace plan coming from the Putin-Xi meeting would be unacceptable because a cease-fire would only ratify Moscow’s territorial conquests and give Russia time to plan for a renewed offensive.
Beijing insists it is a neutral broker in Ukraine, and Xi said after his talks with Putin: “We adhere to a principled and objective position on the Ukrainian crisis based on the goals and principles of the U.N. Charter.” The Chinese plan seeks to “actively encourage peace and the resumption of talks,” he said.
After meeting Kishida, Zelenskyy told reporters his team had sent his own peace formula to China but hasn’t heard back, adding that there were “some signals, but nothing concrete about the possibility of a dialogue.”
Kishida called Russia’s invasion a “disgrace that undermines the foundations of the international legal order” and pledged to “continue to support Ukraine until peace is back on the beautiful Ukrainian lands.”
Hours before Xi and Putin dined at a state dinner in glittering Kremlin opulence, Kishida laid flowers at a church in Bucha for the town’s victims.
“Upon this visit to Bucha, I feel a strong resentment against cruelty,” he said. “I would like to represent the people in Japan, and express my deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones, were injured as a result of this cruel act.”
U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel noted the “two very different European-Pacific partnerships” that unfolded Tuesday.
“Kishida stands with freedom, and Xi stands with a war criminal,” Emanuel tweeted, referring to Friday’s decision by the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Putin, saying it wanted to put him on trial for the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine.
Kishida became Japan’s first postwar leader to enter a war zone.
Due to its pacifist principles, Japan’s support for Ukraine has been limited to nonlethal equipment and humanitarian supplies. It has contributed more than $7 billion to Ukraine and accepted more than 2,000 displaced Ukrainians, despite its strict immigration policy.
Tokyo joined the U.S. and European nations in sanctioning Russia over the invasion. By contrast, China has refused to condemn Moscow’s aggression and criticized Western sanctions against Moscow, while accusing NATO and Washington of provoking Putin’s military action. (ap/ez)