Mon | Jun 5, 2023

Japan’s PM offers support as China’s Xi backs Russia

Published:Wednesday | March 22, 2023 | 12:21 AM
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (centre) arrives at a church in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv that became a symbol of Russian atrocities against civilians, in Ukraine, yesterday.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (centre) arrives at a church in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv that became a symbol of Russian atrocities against civilians, in Ukraine, yesterday.

KYIV (AP):

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit Tuesday to Kyiv, stealing some of the attention from Asian rival President Xi Jinping of China, who met in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin to promote Beijing’s peace proposal for Ukraine that Western nations have already criticised.

The two visits, about 800 kilometres (500 miles) apart, highlighted the nearly 13-month-old war’s repercussions for international diplomacy as countries line up behind Moscow or Kyiv. Kishida, who will chair the Group of Seven summit in May, met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and paid tribute to those killed in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv that became a symbol of Russian atrocities against civilians.

After talks with Xi, Putin said a Chinese peace plan could provide a basis for a settlement of the fighting in Ukraine when the West is ready for it, but he added that Kyiv’s Western allies have shown no interest in that.

US officials have said any peace plan coming from the Putin-Xi meeting would be unacceptable because a ceasefire would only ratify Moscow’s territorial conquests and give Russia time to plan for a renewed offensive.

until the last Ukrainian

“It looks like the West indeed intends to fight Russia until the last Ukrainian,” Putin said after his talks with Xi. He said the latest threat is a British plan to provide Ukraine with tank rounds containing depleted uranium. “If that happens, Russia will respond accordingly, given that the collective West is starting to use weapons with a nuclear component.”

He did not elaborate. Putin has occasionally warned that Russia would use all available means, including possibly nuclear weapons, to defend itself, but also has sometimes backed off such threats.

Putin’s comment referred to remarks Monday by UK junior Defense Minister Annabel Goldie, who wrote: “Alongside our granting of a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, we will be providing ammunition, including armour-piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium. Such rounds are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the UK plan shows that the British “have lost the bearings,” and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said “it marked another step, and there aren’t so many of them left”.

But weapons expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of Britain’s Royal Tank Regiment, said it was “reckless” of Putin “to try and suggest Britain is sending nuclear material” to Ukraine. He said depleted uranium is a common component of tank rounds, possibly even used by Russia.

“Putin insinuating that they are some sort of nuclear weapon is bonkers,” de Bretton-Gordon told AP. “Depleted uranium is completely inert. There is no way that you could create a nuclear reaction or a nuclear explosion with depleted uranium.”

Beijing insists it is a neutral broker in Ukraine, and Xi said Tuesday after his talks with Putin: “We adhere to a principled and objective position on the Ukrainian crisis based on the goals and principles of the UN Charter.” He added that the Chinese plan seeks to “actively encourage peace and the resumption of talks”.

In a joint statement, Russia and China emphasised the need to “respect legitimate security concerns of all countries” to settle the conflict, echoing Moscow’s argument that it sent troops into its neighbour to prevent the US and its NATO allies from turning the country into an anti-Russian bulwark.

“Russia welcomes China’s readiness to play a positive role in the political and diplomatic settlement of the Ukrainian crisis” and the “constructive ideas” contained in Beijing’s peace plan, the statement said. It added: “The parties underline that a responsible dialogue offers the best path for a lasting settlement ... and the international community should support constructive efforts in this regard.”

Kishida laid flowers at a church in Bucha for the town’s victims.

“Upon this visit to Bucha, I feel a strong resentment against cruelty,” he said. “I would like to represent the people in Japan, and express my deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones, were injured as a result of this cruel act.”

US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel noted the “two very different European-Pacific partnerships” that unfolded Tuesday.