NEW YORK – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday condemned what Russia calls “referendums” in Moscow-controlled regions of Ukraine and said Russia must never use or threaten to use nuclear weapons, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Kishida’s remarks came during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in New York ahead of the start of voting Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson and partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions — an act Western officials and analysts believe Russia will use to justify the annexation of the areas.
Voting will run through Tuesday, according to Russian media.
Meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Kishida told Shmyhal that Japan will reopen its embassy in Kyiv after being closed for months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian prime minister.
Japan is the only Group of Seven industrialized nation that has yet to resume its embassy operations in Kyiv.
Kishida said Japan will continue to respond to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine with powerful sanctions in coordination with other G-7 members and the international community to force Moscow to halt its invasion, according to the ministry.
“Japan would like to lead the international community’s discussion toward the restoration of peace and realization of reconstruction of Ukraine as soon as possible,” Kishida was quoted by the ministry as saying.
The prime minister was referring to Tokyo holding the G-7 presidency next year and beginning a two-year term as a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council in January next year.
Shmyhal expressed his gratitude for Japan’s support for Ukraine and its economic sanctions on Russia, the ministry said.
In a separate meeting, Kishida and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif affirmed that any attempt to alter the status quo by force would never be tolerated in any region, in a veiled criticism against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s rising assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.
Kishida said he hopes to closely cooperate with Pakistan in elevating bilateral relations as part of efforts to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific, according to the ministry.