Japan foreign minister and business leaders meet Ukrainian leader and vow support for reconstruction

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday during his visit in Kyiv, promising Tokyo's backing and agreeing to start negotiations on security cooperation between the two countries.

Hayashi, who had been on a tour of the Middle East and Poland earlier this week, made an unannounced visit to Ukraine and visited Bucha, one of the hardest-hit towns on the outskirts of Kyiv, before holding talks with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

Hayashi told Zelenskyy that Japan was ready to start negotiations on security cooperation based on an agreement between the Group of Seven and Ukraine made during the NATO summit in July.

Zelenskyy thanked for Japan's humanitarian and financial assistance that helped Ukraine through the winter as well as overcome problems in the energy supply due to Russian attacks, according to a statement from the office of the Ukrainian president.

Hayashi also told Zelenskyy that Japan was committed to Ukraine and will continue to impose tough sanctions against Russia while cooperating with other G7 countries. He also promised support for Ukraine's economic recovery and reconstruction.

Japan plans to host a Japan-Ukraine conference aimed at economic reconstruction early next year, Hayashi told Zelenskyy, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

It was Hayashi's first visit since the war began over a year ago. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida traveled to Ukraine in March.

Hayashi brought along a delegation of Japanese business leaders, including Rakuten Group CEO Hiroshi Mikitani and Teppei Sakano, president of a medical equipment maker Allm Inc.

“This is very important because we are actively working on the recovery of the Ukrainian economy and attracting new investmets to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy told the delegation.

Japan donated more than $7 billion to Ukraine, mostly for humanitarian assistance, and military equipment limited to non-lethal weapons because of the legal limitations under its pacifist constitution.