Why is Japan hosting a conference for Ukraine reconstruction when it's still at war?

AP , Monday 19 Feb 2024

Japan is hosting a conference for Japanese and Ukrainian officials to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine just ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion, while the U.S. and other Western countries are still focusing on military aid for the battlefield. Hundreds of senior officials and executives are attending the Japan-Ukraine Conference for the Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction in Tokyo. AP explains the event, its purpose, who's attending, and the projects being discussed.

Ukraine s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida
Ukraine s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attend a memorandum of a cooperation exchange ceremony during the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction at Keidanren Kaikan building in Tokyo, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. AP



The conference is co-organized by the Japanese and Ukrainian governments, Japan’s powerful business organization Keidanren, and the Japan External Trade Organization, or JETRO.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal is heading his country’s delegation of more than 100 government and corporate officials. First Deputy Prime Minister Yuliia Svyrydenko, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko, and Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Minister Ruslan Strilets also were to attend.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is leading Japan's side, joined by Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, and Keidanren chair Masakazu Tokura, among many others. About 100 officials from Japanese companies, the majority of them startups but from also leading companies like Kawasaki Heavy Industry, farming equipment makers Yanmar Holdings and Kubota Co., and telecoms company Rakuten Symphony are attending.


Japan hopes the conference will help build support for Ukraine as the war drags on after two years, at a time when attention has been diverted to the situation in Gaza. Officials in Tokyo say the global community should unite in supporting Ukraine to show that using force against other countries will not be tolerated.


The conference is largely about reconstruction and investment in Ukraine that could put Japan ahead of the curve. It’s also about Japan’s national security. Kishida has repeatedly said, “Ukraine today could be East Asia tomorrow.” Japan has staunchly opposed Russia’s invasion, viewing it as a one-sided change of the “status quo” by force. It is concerned about China’s increasingly assertive military actions in the region.

Japan has earned a strong reputation for economic and development cooperation under its post-World War II pacifist policy that commits it to never using force against other nations. Tokyo has eased that restraint to build up a military deterrence against China, but its support for Ukraine has largely been for humanitarian assistance. It has limited its supplies of military equipment to non-lethal weapons.

Japan’s $12.1 billion contribution to Ukraine over the past two years is much smaller than the $111 billion that the United States and other Western nations have provided in weapons, equipment, and humanitarian assistance.

The government hopes to facilitate private sector investment while minimizing risks of business operations in Ukraine.

Having risen from the ashes of devastation from World War II and the damage caused by major earthquakes and other disasters, Japan believes it has a special role to play in aiding Ukraine's rebuilding.


Ukrain's Shmyhal expressed high expectations for Japanese companies’ expertise in technology and Japan’s experience in postwar and disaster reconstruction. Ukraine’s reconstruction also will mean future investment and business opportunities for the startups, who were the majority of companies attending the conference.

The Japanese government has chosen seven target areas — including removal of mines and debris; improvement of humanitarian and living conditions; farming; biochemical manufacturing; digital and information industries; infrastructure for power generation and transportation and anti-corruption measures.

In all, 56 cooperation deals between Japanese and Ukrainian government agencies and companies were announced, and Kishida unveiled a plan to open a JETRO office in Kyiv.

A Tokyo-based bridge-builder, Komaihaltec, is to jointly develop small wind power generation facilities with Ukraine’s state gas operator. Sumitomo Corp. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries agreed on a joint study with the Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine on modernizing gas compressor stations. Rakuten Symphony and Ukrainian telecom Kyivstar plan to jointly rebuild digital infrastructure. One Japanese startup has developed radar-mounted landmine removal equipment and another helps optimize farming by analyzing soil components using satellite imagery.


In the joint communique, Japan and Ukraine reaffirmed that sanctions against Russia are a “crucial and effective measure” to deter Russia's military activities. They also confirmed their determination to prevent the circumvention of sanctions.

Japan expressed its continued support of all phases of Ukraine's reconstruction, from its initial emergency recovery to economic reconstruction and industrial development.

The two countries signed a tax convention and are to begin reviewing an investment treaty. Japan also announced the easing of visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens.

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