Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in neighboring Russia for a three-day trip starting on Monday. Just a few hours later, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reached Kyiv for a surprise visit, arriving shortly after noon on Tuesday.
Kishida will meet President Volodymyr Zelensky in the Ukrainian capital, coinciding with Xi’s talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
For both, the topic of discussion will be the Russia Ukraine war, but most likely, from a different perspective, as the countries line up behind rival parties.
Kishida will “show respect to the courage and patience of the Ukrainian people who are standing up to defend their homeland under President Zelenskyy’s leadership, and show solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine as head of Japan and chairman of G-7,” during his visit to Ukraine, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in announcing his trip to Kyiv.
At the talks, Kishida will show his “absolute rejection of Russia’s one-sided change to the status quo by invasion and force, and to affirm his commitment to defend the rules-based international order,” the ministry’s statement said.
By contrast, Putin warmly welcomed Xi to the Kremlin on Monday, starting a three-day visit the two major powers described as an opportunity to deepen their “no-limits friendship.”
Coming just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin, the visit aims to convey support for the Russian leader and disdain for the ICC. Neither Russia nor China recognize the court’s jurisdiction.
Both Moscow and Beijing have been the targets of international condemnation of their human rights record.
China and Japan have vested interests in the relationship with Russia. Japan, which has territorial disputes over islands with both China and Russia, is particularly concerned about the close relationship between Beijing and Moscow, which have conducted joint military exercises near Japan’s coasts.
Meanwhile, China looks to Russia as a source of oil and gas for its energy-hungry economy, and as a partner in standing up to what both see as U.S. aggression, domination of global affairs and unfair criticism of their human rights records.
Kyiv’s Western allies have expressed concern that China might help Russia’s war effort, though Beijing insists it is a neutral broker in peace efforts. Meanwhile, Russia has accused the Western powers of fighting a proxy war in Ukraine. It is an undeniable fact that the Western powers are supplying military equipment to Ukraine.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the United States has sent more than $30 billion worth of gear to Ukraine. In early March 2023, the Biden administration invoked the drawdown authority for Ukraine for the 33rd time allotting an additional $400 million. In this latest package, the United States will provide more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, additional 105 mm and 155 mm artillery rounds, and additional 25 mm ammunition.
As of February 22, 2023, defense.gov reports that, “the United States has not yet seen China giving lethal aid to Russia in its illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, but the Chinese also haven’t taken that aid off the table, according to Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh in a briefing of the media at the Pentagon today.”
Does the “no-limits friendship” professed by Putin and Xi hint that this may soon change, and that China may follow the West’s lead and start sending military aid to its own chosen side, Russia?
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