Ukraine envoy is optimistic Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will visit Kyiv before May

Sergiy Korsunsky speaking to the media at the Ukrainian Embassy in Ankara, Turkey on April 22, 2014.

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SINGAPORE — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will likely visit Ukraine’s capital before the G-7 Hiroshima Summit, Ukraine’s ambassador to Japan Sergiy Korsunsky told CNBC.

The envoy’s comments come after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended a virtual G-7 leaders’ meeting Friday on Kishida’s invitation as the world marked one year of the war in Ukraine.

When CNBC asked if the ambassador sees Kishida visiting before Japan hosts the summit in May, Korsunsky answered, “for sure,” without elaborating further on the timeline of the potential trip.

“He understands fully that G-7 chair[‘s] responsibility is to go to visit Ukraine before [the] summit in Hiroshima,” Korsunsky said, adding that it is a matter of “when and how.”

Kishida’s office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

“From my discussions with the political leaders around Kishida[‘s trip], in the parliament and the government, he is very much willing to go,” he said. “They will result, I’m sure in the best possible manner as soon as possible,” he said.

Following U.S. President Joe Biden’s surprise visit, Kishida is the only leader left among the Group of Seven who has not visited Ukraine since Russia invaded last year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have all visited.

Kishida’s trip would make him the second Asian leader after Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s visit in June last year.

“We want this to happen as soon as possible,” said Korsunsky, adding he cannot make details surrounding the discussions of the trip public.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky and European Council President Charles Michel pictured at a Special European council summit, in Brussels, Thursday 09 February 2023.

Nicolas Maeterlinck | AFP | Getty Images

He emphasized logistical issues remain one of the top concerns of a potential trip by Kishida to Ukraine.

Zelenskyy visit to Hiroshima

The ambassador said security concerns are also a priority in disucssions about Zelenskyy’s potential visit to the Japanese city of Hiroshima, home to the site of the world’s first atomic bombing.

If extended an invite from G-7 nations, the ambassador said Zelenskyy would “carefully consider this opportunity, taking into account … issues of logistics and security.”

He added Zelenskyy would have to consider “possible provocations” before making the trip.

“To fly to Japan is different than to fly to the United States. When you fly in the west direction, you fly over friendly territory,” he said. “If you fly into the East, you have to carefully consider every possible provocations,” he said.

Russia has become a pariah state. What's next?

Korsunsky noted a potential trip by Zelenskyy to Hiroshima would carry symbolic significance given that Ukraine faces “credible threats” similar to that of the atomic bombings on Japan during World War II.

“Japan experienced as well nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and that’s a threat which now exists, with a credible threat against Ukraine,” he said.

“If President Zelenskyy personally will attend summit in Hiroshima, that will be an extremely powerful message to the world, about the intentions of the G-7 to fight against nuclear terrorists in any form,” he said.

‘Red line’ for China

When asked about U.S. fears that China could provide lethal weapons to Russia, Korsunsky said, “China must understand this is a red line which cannot be crossed.”

“You shouldn’t open Pandora’s box with nuclear friends,” he said. “I want to hope that China will change its attitude once the clear picture of atrocities committed by Russia becomes more clear,” he said.

The ambassador however remained skeptical of such plans leading to tangible actions.

“Even if such discussions are happening somewhere in Beijing’s political circles, I believe they will go nowhere,” he said.

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