Press Conference by Prime Minister Kishida
February 24, 2023
It was a year ago today that Ukraine was subjected to Russian aggression. For those of us living in the modern era, this date, February 24, has become a date we cannot -- indeed, we must not -- forget. People the world over sat in shock at the violence of Russian tanks and missiles mercilessly assaulting houses in which ordinary people lived as well as bridges and electrical power plants and the outrage of innocent civilians being killed.
Now, one year since that date, the fight to restore justice remains precarious. We are witnessing the Ukrainian people demonstrate through their actions their firm conviction and courage to defend their nation by themselves. What is bolstering these actions is the spirit of solidarity among nations.
The Japanese people have also clearly shown solidarity with the people of Ukraine over this past year. We accepted over 2,000 evacuees from Ukraine, with over 300 local governments announcing livelihood support and other assistance and more than 800 companies offering assistance such as providing employment opportunities. In addition, the Government has just recently taken the decision to extend by one year its provision of daily living expenses and other support to evacuees from Ukraine who have no relatives in Japan.
The Japanese people have been seriously affected by the rising prices of energy and food items as a result of these outrageous acts. The solidarity the Japanese people have shown despite this is, I am certain, well understood by the people of Ukraine.
As prime minister, I express my sincere respect to you, the Japanese people. As I said earlier, the progress of the war is still difficult to predict, but in order to restore peace and order to the international community, I ask earnestly for the ongoing understanding and cooperation of you in the public.
2. The role of the G7 presidency
To ensure that unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force are not tolerated under any circumstances, we must steadily implement assistance to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia and restore the peaceful world order based on the rule of law of international law, including the UN Charter.
Forming the crux of the international community's firm resolve is the G7, whose presidency rests with Japan this year. Besides hosting the Hiroshima Summit in May, all throughout this year, from January to December, Japan, as the country holding the G7 presidency, will lead the way in creating a united front in dealing with the Ukraine issue.
At the same time, Japan is also serving as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council from this year, and we will responsibly take on this role within the Security Council as well. Today, after this press conference, I will host a G7 leaders' video conference beginning at 11 PM which I have also invited President Zelenskyy to join. The military situation is becoming increasingly strained with, for example, increasingly broad-based moves by the West to provide weapons assistance, while Russia is at the same time newly expanding its offensive.
Today, I intend for us to have an exchange of views about this latest situation, reaffirm the unity of the G7, and engage in intensive discussions among the leaders regarding how we should provide assistance for reconstruction and other such topics. Also, I expect that the G7 will present a new approach regarding sanctions against Russia. Furthermore, military support for Russia by third countries has been pointed out. In light of that, I expect the G7 to call for a halt to such support.
Within the G7, Japan is the sole member from Asia, but there is no "Europe" or "Asia" when it comes to rules for peace. The situation surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly tense, including frequent missile launches by North Korea. In addition, sharply rising energy and food prices are striking a blow to countries all around the world, including in Asia. I will work actively to persuade Asian nations to unite to protect the peaceful world order, and at the same time, with the leaders of the U.S. and Europe, I will engage in discussions that take Asian nations' true intentions also into account.
Japan is the only country anywhere in the world to have suffered the devastation of atomic bombings during war. Threats by Russia to use nuclear weapons must not be allowed to defile the past 77 years of history of nuclear weapons not being used. I express my grave concern over President Putin stating this week that Russian implementation of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) is suspended. The continuation of efforts towards nuclear disarmament is becoming increasingly critical, and Japan will lead such discussions within the G7.
3. Assistance to Ukraine
Unfortunately, in the fight against Russia's aggressive acts, for now, there is no end in sight. In the face of that harsh reality, what Ukraine needs most of all is equipment for the battle against Russia. Japan has been providing Ukraine with bulletproof vests, helmets, drones, and so on, but there are restrictions on providing equipment with the capacity to kill or wound, in accordance with our Three Principles of Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology. However, that is precisely why Japan is mobilizing its strengths and engaging in well-tailored assistance that pays careful attention to the needs of the Ukrainian people.
Since immediately after the aggression began, Japan has announced a total of US$7.1 billion of Ukraine-related assistance, including about US$900 million of humanitarian assistance and assistance for recovery and reconstruction and roughly US$5.5 billion of additional financial support announced just recently. We will continue to support Ukraine seamlessly, in a way that is uniquely Japanese.
In concrete terms, first of all, amidst continual Russian attacks on energy, infrastructure, and so on, there have been calls for an international response to Ukraine's power shortages. Japan will, in partnership with the United States, lead cooperation under the G7+ framework related to support for the energy field.
For example, the supplying of about 1,500 generators that Japan is undertaking has been providing warmth in the bitter cold to several hundred thousand Ukrainians. Also, in order to benefit an even broader range of people, we will move forward in supplying about 10 large-scale transformer facilities and about 140 units of power-related equipment.
In areas where the fighting is over, it is critically important to clear landmines and unexploded ordnance, ensure safety, and move forward with recovery and reconstruction. Japan has many years of experience in landmine clearance and reconstruction cooperation in Cambodia and elsewhere. Leveraging the knowledge we gained there, Japan launched a training course for Ukraine on how to use mine detectors, working together with Cambodia, which has amassed a lot of experience through Japanese cooperation. We will proceed with supplying mine detection and demining equipment as we continue to provide this training, so that Ukraine can immediately move forward on mine clearance in earnest. In addition, the disposal of rubble and debris is a prerequisite for recovery and reconstruction. Towards that end, we will also push forward in providing construction equipment and related items.
Before Russia launched its aggression, Ukraine supplied agricultural produce to countries all around the world as one of the world's leading grain-producing areas. That supply was impeded by Russian aggression, sparking an international food crisis. Japan has been providing assistance to expand grain storage capacity in Ukraine, as well as food aid to regions that have been impacted by the situation. However, what is important is to provide support so that Ukraine can once again supply grain to the world as the world's food basket.
From that perspective, we are also prepared to help restore Ukraine's agricultural production capacity by procuring Ukrainian corn and other seeds and providing them in a prioritized manner to women, youth, and small-scale farmers. Efforts to restore Ukraine's agricultural production and export capacity are also important in our relations with the Global South, and we intend to continue expanding our uniquely Japanese forms of assistance.
In addition, we will implement a wide range of support, including for education, strengthening governance, and protecting cultural property, that utilizes knowledge unique to Japan and meets Ukraine's needs.
It is also vital that we support countries neighboring Ukraine that have been affected by Russian violence. We have been providing yen loans to Poland, Moldova, and other neighboring countries, which have been facing a large influx of evacuees and soaring energy prices, among other hardships.
Today's Ukraine may be tomorrow's East Asia. It has been with a strong sense of urgency that I have imposed rigorous sanctions and provided assistance to Ukraine. I have also made ardent appeals at a wide range of meetings and summit meetings, including the G7 and G20 summits, the East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN Summit.
Supporting Ukraine as it endures aggression is a matter of not only providing assistance to Ukraine but also demonstrating through our actions our determination to fully defend the international order based on the rule of law, never recognizing unilateral changes to the status quo by force.
Now, with the world at a historic turning point, we will demonstrate our diplomatic capacity, leveraging Japan's unique position. Moreover, we will act in cooperation with like-minded countries to contribute to building the next peaceful world order.
This year, important international meetings will be held one after the other in the Indo-Pacific region, with the May G7 Hiroshima Summit, the September G20 summit in India, the November APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in the U.S., and the year-end ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in Japan.
In order to restore peace and stability to the international community, from here in Asia, we will make our greatest possible efforts to amply demonstrate Japan's diplomatic capacity that is trusted by the world. The expectations towards Japan are great indeed. Yet this is also a critical opportunity for Japan. As its starting point, tonight I intend to engage in very substantial discussions with the other G7 leaders.
With the Ukraine situation still in a state of uncertainty, there continues to be a need to stay alert regarding soaring commodity prices globally. In addition to the measures that been undertaken in succession until now, reductions in electricity and natural gas fees have been underway since January, and, given the current situation, this morning I convened a meeting of the Task Force on Prices, Wages, and Daily Living and issued directions to work to curb utility fees, including through strict and careful assessments of applications to raise electricity fees. I also gave instructions on implementing measures to curb dramatic changes in the price of animal feed.
Here as we mark the passage of one year since the start of Russian aggression against Ukraine, my remarks today have focused on our measures to respond to the Ukraine situation. We need to ask the public for substantial assistance, but we will thoroughly and reliably take policies to protect and support people's daily lives. I ask for your understanding and cooperation.