Japanese Prime Minister Kishida is heading to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky

Hong Kong (CNN) Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is making a surprise trip to Ukraine on Tuesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — a day after Chinese leader Xi Jinping met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow.

Kishida He has already left India, where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and is now on his way to Ukraine, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

And NHK reported that his visit is the first time that a Japanese prime minister has visited a country or region that has witnessed continuous fighting since World War II. It will be the first visit to Ukraine by an Asian member of the Group of Seven and the first by a US ally in the region.

The dual visits by Kishida and Xi underscore the deep divisions in Northeast Asia toward the war in Ukraine, with Japan pledging significant aid to Cave, while China remains a lone voice in support of an increasingly isolated Putin — now a global pariah and suspected war criminal.

In the face of China’s increasing assertiveness and global reach, Japan and the United States have moved closer in recent years, particularly with regard to regional security and intelligence cooperation.

Japan is also a member of the Quartet, an informal security-focused group that includes India, Australia and the United States.

Kishida has previously spoken out forcefully against Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour, warning last year that “Today’s Ukraine may be tomorrow’s East Asia.”

Last month, on the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion, Japan It pledged $5.5 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, quadrupling Tokyo’s previous contributions.

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“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is not just a European matter, but a challenge to the rules and principles of the entire international community,” Kishida said at the time.

While visiting New Delhi on Monday, Kishida announced a new $75 billion investment plan in the Indo-Pacific, according to Reuters — widely seen as an effort to deepen ties with countries in South and Southeast Asia and counter China’s influence. .

Xi meets “dear friend” Putin

The expected arrival of the Japanese leader in Ukraine He follows Xi’s controversial state visit to RussiaIt is his first since the invasion began, as the first day of talks began on Monday.

Xi’s visit was framed by Beijing as a peacemaking project – despite deep suspicions in Kiev and the West.

For the United States and most of Europe, the Chinese leader’s presence in Moscow is seen as a staunch endorsement of Putin at a time when his military is running out of supplies and Russia’s economy is suffering under Western sanctions.

Throughout the invasion, China supported the Kremlin’s rhetoric blaming NATO for the conflict, refused to condemn the invasion, and continued to support Moscow financially by dramatically increasing its purchases of Russian fuel.

India is the only other Asian country to take a similar stance, refusing to officially condemn the Russian invasion and continuing to buy Russian oil.

Modi to Putin last September That it was not a time for war, in an apparent criticism – although India continued to maintain pivotal relations with Moscow.

During his visit on Monday, Xi praised Putin as “aDear FriendThey discussed the Ukraine war and further meetings are scheduled for Tuesday.

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The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Xi planned to speak with Zelensky after his trip to Moscow, citing “people familiar with the matter.”

It will be the first time the two leaders have spoken since Russia launched its invasion.

Ukrainian, Chinese and US officials declined to confirm the possible virtual meeting.

CNN’s Emi Jozuka contributed to this report.

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