onsdag 22. mars 2023

Japanese and Chinese leaders visit opposing capitals in Ukraine war

If ever you needed a demonstration of how the war in Ukraine is echoing in Asia, the schedule of the Japanese and Chinese leaders offers a prime example. Both are on strategic foreign visits on opposing sides of the conflict. Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is in Kyiv where he is promising unwavering support to Ukraine's president, with talk of reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

China's Xi Jinping, meanwhile, is in Moscow and has been described by Russia's Vladimir Putin as a friend and a partner. China may insist it is neutral, but it looks more Moscow-leaning than honest broker right now. On Tuesday, Mr Xi said China would prioritise its ties with Russia and described the two countries as "great neighbouring powers".

Given events in Moscow, the optics and timing of Mr Kishida's parallel trip are remarkable. So what can we read into it? It is rare for a Japanese leader to make an unannounced foreign trip and Mr Kishida is the first to visit a country in conflict since World War Two. The visit was kept a secret until just before his arrival early on Tuesday, with officials citing security concerns.