Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Takashi Arimoto

【#1005】What Kishida Can Provide to Ukraine

Takashi Arimoto / 2023.01.31 (Tue)

January 30, 2023

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering visiting Ukraine. Kishida reportedly wants to visit Ukraine because he will chair this year’s Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima in May and yet he is the only G7 leader who has not met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in person.

“I would like to consider [the visit to Ukraine] in light of various factors,” Kishida told the House of Representatives on January 25. In bilateral telephone talks on January 6, Zelensky invited Kishida to visit Ukraine. Kishida toured Europe from January 9, but fell short of going to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

Japan’s provision of weapons appears difficult

For Kishida who has been elected from the world’s first atom-bombed city of Hiroshima and calls for abolishing nuclear weapons, it may be significant to directly look at Ukraine under Russian nuclear threat. Even if Kishida’s meeting with Zelensky becomes reality by clearing security problems, the question is whether Japan can offer further specific support for Ukraine.

Japan has provided Ukraine with bulletproof vests, helmets, protective masks, protective clothing, small drones and more than 200 power generators. Japan will inevitably be compared with Germany that had been initially criticized for offering to provide Ukraine with 5,000 “defensive” helmets like Japan but has just announced a plan to give Ukraine Leopard 2 main battle tanks, which had been seen as a taboo.

When updating the three national security documents including the National Security Strategy last month, the Japanese government only offered to “consider” reviewing the three principles on the overseas transfer of defense equipment and the guidelines for the implementation of the principles. This is because the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, the Komeito party, was cautious about the original plan for active promotion of arms transfer.

Kishida told the National Diet that his government would strongly pursue sanctions on Russia and support for Ukraine and continue to respond in close cooperation with G7 members and like-minded countries. At present, however, it may be difficult for Japan to provide Ukraine with weapons.

Demand existing for mobile communication base stations

When a meeting of the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals discussed how Japan should support Ukraine, the provision of mobile communication base stations was proposed.

Elon Musk, the founder of space development venture SpaceX, has provided Ukraine with the Starlink internet service using satellites. U.S. information technology giants Google and Microsoft have also cooperated with Ukraine in securing IT infrastructure. Nevertheless, Ukraine’s communication environment has been seriously damaged by Russian military attacks, indicating that Ukraine is required to receive support for the diversification of communication tools.

Supporting Ukraine also serves Japan’s own interests. In a Taiwan Strait crisis, it will be imperative for Japan to maintain communication infrastructure. Given that Ukraine has come under Russian cyberattacks, the provision of mobile communication base stations has to be accompanied by the enhancement of cybersecurity.

Today’s Ukraine could be tomorrow’s Taiwan. It has become clear that as warfare has changed, no country can fight war without equipment for new domains such as outer space and cyber space. Japan can learn a lot from Ukraine.

Takashi Arimoto is a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and publisher of Monthly Magazine SEIRON at the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.