The Mainichi

Japan PM sought Zelenskyy’s presence at G7 summit as rejection of Russian nuclear threats

Story by The Mainichi • Yesterday 9:07 AM

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, and his wife Olena Zelenska, right, enter the Imperial Palace main building in Tokyo to attend Japanese Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony in this Oct. 22, 2019, file photo. (Mainichi/Toshiki Miyama)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, and his wife Olena Zelenska, right, enter the Imperial Palace main building in Tokyo to attend Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony in this Oct. 22, 2019, file photo. (Mainichi/Toshiki Miyama)© The Mainichi

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has welcomed plans for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to attend the ongoing G7 summit in Hiroshima as an opportunity to make the group’s support for Kyiv and its refusal to tolerate Russian nuclear threats clear.

Speculation that Zelenskyy would visit Hiroshima had been circulating for several days. However, in response to a reporter’s question on the evening of May 18, Kishida denied it, saying, “There have been many rumors, but he will attend online.” His statement is believed to have been intended to ensure the Ukrainian president’s safety at a time of war and to guarantee he could visit Japan. Kishida went so far as to order any government official asked about Zelenskyy’s attendance to say, “It’ll be online.”

The prime minister, who made a surprise visit to Kyiv in March, directly asked for Zelenskyy’s participation, viewing it as indispensable to a summit aimed at upholding “the free and open international order based on the rule of law” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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On the other hand, some observers have pointed out that emerging and developing nations that prioritize their own relations with Russia have not joined international sanctions against Moscow, and that there are also subtle differences in the stances of the G7 nations, which have varying degrees of energy dependence on Russia. Prime Minister Kishida, as chair of the Hiroshima summit, hopes that Zelenskyy’s attendance will provide momentum for strengthening sanctions.

The visit by the president of Ukraine, which faces nuclear threats from Russia, to the A-bombed city of Hiroshima is highly significant to the Japanese prime minister’s pursuit of a “world without nuclear weapons.” If Kishida and Zelenskyy visited Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima together, it would send a strong nuclear disarmament message.

China has dispatched special government envoys to countries including Russia and Ukraine to spark peace negotiations, but Europe, the United States and some other nations have criticized Beijing’s pro-Russian stance. Kishida may be aiming to show “G7 leadership” by having Zelenskyy attend.

(Japanese original by Akira Murao, Political News Department)

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