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Japan's economic relief is a welcome respite for Ukraine as U.S. military aid falters

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Japan may seem far away from Ukraine, but the two countries share a common neighbor, Russia. That's what brought a delegation from Kyiv to Tokyo this week for a conference on reconstruction in Ukraine. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged his country's long-term support of trade, while dozens of Japanese companies signed deals with Ukrainian firms working in agriculture, energy and infrastructure. Japan's economic assistance is a welcome respite for Ukraine as U.S. military aid falters and after the loss of a key city on Ukraine's eastern front, Avdiivka, to Russia. I spoke to Noriyuki Shikata, spokesman for Japan's prime minister, and I asked why Japan is talking about reconstruction during a war that has no end in sight.

NORIYUKI SHIKATA: So that's a challenging situation, but we are seeing the Japanese companies trying to invest in agriculture, manufacturing, digital infrastructure, among others. So Japanese people are really committed to supporting Ukraine, and this is led by Prime Minister Kishida after his trip to Ukraine last year in March. And we have been committing ourselves to a sustainable development of Ukrainian economy and society.

MARTÍNEZ: Why wouldn't Japan help provide military aid, weapons, ammunition?

SHIKATA: We have some restrictions in terms of sending weapons to countries like Ukraine at this point of time. We believe that given our experience in postwar reconstruction and quick recovery, we think we have a lot to offer. So we have been collaborating with other G7 countries and other OECD or NATO members, and we would be continuing to contribute to the recovery and reconstruction of Ukraine for the coming years.

MARTÍNEZ: What happens if Russia achieves their objectives in Ukraine?

SHIKATA: Well, you know, what we are talking about is we are supporting democracy in Ukraine, and we are opposing unilateral attempt to change the status quo in any parts of the world, including Ukraine. We hope that we will continue to closely work with the U.S. government and other like-minded countries who believe in the importance of rule-based international order. We are talking about free and open international order based on the rule of law.

MARTÍNEZ: Japan's prime minister has said Ukraine today could be East Asia tomorrow. What does he mean by that?

SHIKATA: Well, we have a challenging security landscape in our region. We have been witnessing North Korean nuclear program, and we have been seeing attempts to change the status quo in East China Sea or South China Sea. And we have been following some collaboration between Russia and China or North Korea and Russia. So in that sense, the European security situation is inseparable from that of East Asia.

MARTÍNEZ: Noriyuki Shikata is cabinet secretary for public affairs at the Prime Minister's Office in Japan. Thank you very much for your time.

SHIKATA: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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