KYIV, Ukraine — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Kyiv for a surprise visit shortly after noon Tuesday, March 21, 2023, hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in neighboring Russia for a three-day trip. Moscow’s invasion will be in the spotlight at both meetings.

Footage shown on Japanese national broadcaster NHK showed Kishida walking on the platform of a train station, escorted by a few people who appeared to be Ukrainian officials.

It was uncertain whether either meeting would change the course of the almost 13-month war in Ukraine, but the talks about 800 kilometer apart highlighted the war’s repercussions for international diplomacy as countries line up behind rival parties.

They came after a week in which China and Japan both enjoyed diplomatic successes that have emboldened their foreign policy.

Kishida met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Ukrainian capital, coinciding with Xi’s talks with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Respecting Ukrainians’ courage

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.

Putin warmly welcomed Xi to the Kremlin on Monday, March 20, starting a three-day visit the two major powers described as an opportunity to deepen their “no-limits friendship.”

At a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Tuesday, Xi said that he invited Putin to visit China at some point this year to attend a top-level meeting of China’s One Belt, One Road regional initiative, which seeks to extend Beijing’s influence through economic cooperation projects.

The invitation comes days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin. Neither Russia nor China recognize the court’s jurisdiction. (AP)