How Japan helped Ukraine throughout the full-scale invasion


After the start of a full-scale war on the territory of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, our country was supported by many allies. These were the USA, Poland, Germany, Lithuania, and many other European countries. However, one more country could not stay away — Japan.

This country regularly provided Ukraine with financial support during these difficult times, but never provided weapons. We decided to find out why this happened and understand Japan’s position in this war.


What is the position of Japan in the war between Ukraine and Russia?

Japan reacted almost immediately to the start of a full-scale war on the territory of Ukraine. Already at the end of February 2022, the President of Ukraine had a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida, and the next one — in early March 2022. One of the results of such contacts was Japan’s appeal to the International Criminal Court in The Hague due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Fumio Kishida is a Japanese politician serving as prime minister of Japan since 2021

Ambassador of Ukraine to Japan Serhiy Korsunsky said in an interview that this country, contrary to the requirements of its own legislation, went to help such a distant country.

«For the first time in the history of Japan, a foreign leader spoke in the Japanese parliament — it was President Zelenskiy. For the first time, a nation actually united to support another country. And you know what’s important, ordinary Japanese people tell me about it, just ordinary people in hotels, taxi drivers, security guards. They recognize me and say: you know, we are surprised to ourselves, for the first time in history the whole country is helping another — Ukraine».

Sergiy Korsunsky. Ambassador of Ukraine to Japan since April 2020

In general, if you open the calendar of events on the website of the Embassy of Japan in Ukraine, you can see an incredible number of support projects: from emergency humanitarian aid to economic recovery and development of various sectors of Ukraine.

Also, the position of Japan in relation to Russia was quite understandable. It introduced a number of financial and trade sanctions against the property, assets, official institutions, banks and leadership of the occupying country. She joined in taking measures aimed at isolating Russia from the international financial system and world economy by disconnecting some Russian banks from the SWIFT system. 

Sanctions also extended to Belarus and the so-called «LNR» and «DNR», which are under tyrannical rule. Japan stopped exports, froze the assets of the largest banks and imposed restrictions on the top illegitimate authorities in the country and the occupied territories of Ukraine. She also suspended the issuance of visas for a circle of persons connected to Russia.

It is worth reminding that Japan did not recognize the existence of the so-called «LPR» and «DPR».

We asked the director of the Institute of Governmental Relations, Academy of Political Sciences of Ukraine, Artem Oliinyk, what is the position of Asian countries regarding the war in Ukraine.

«The Indo-Pacific region and Oceania demonstrate their position on the Russian-Ukrainian war and the degree of participation in its approval or condemnation in different ways. First of all, this is connected with the specifically formulated international policy of containment of countries and blocs, where China, the USA and their main allies are the «centers of power».

He said that Japan, South Korea, Taiwan (officially the Republic of China), Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand are clearly in line with Western policy, being allies of the US and the EU. At the same time, a number of countries seek either to maintain a neutral status or stand in support of Russia.

143 countries voted in favour of a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution calling on member states not to recognize Russia’s sham referendums in Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia

For example, Vietnam and Laos abstain from voting, and the Myanmar government also supports Russia (the UN voted in support of Ukraine, because there was a coup d’état in Myanmar, and it was not possible to replace the representatives).


How does Japan help Ukraine?

In order to help Ukraine, the Japanese had to revise some of their laws. For example, Article 116-3 of the Law on Self-Defense Forces, which stipulates that excess equipment of the Self-Defense Forces can be transferred to allied developing countries. However, Article 116-3 deliberately excludes the transfer of arms and ammunition, preventing the delivery of most of the equipment requested by Ukraine.

The «Three Principles of Defense Equipment Transfer» policy, which prohibits the export of (non-lethal) military equipment to «parties to the conflict», was also a problem for cooperation. According to the definition of this document, «a party to the conflict is a country against which certain measures of the UN Security Council are in force».

North Korea and Iraq fall under the definition of «party to the conflict» according to the «Three Principles of Transfer of Defense Equipment». Thus, Japan was free to supply Ukraine with non-lethal defense equipment, since, ironically, it is not a «party to the conflict» under Japanese law.

However, Japan’s Ministry of Defense then ran into problems with «operational instructions» limiting the supply of non-lethal equipment to only items used for transportation, rescue, patrolling (ships), surveillance and demining. Thus, the transfer of helmets and bulletproof vests was excluded, as they are considered defense equipment under Japan’s Export Trade Control Ordinance.

To circumvent these strict regulations, the Japanese government has declared that Type 88 helmets, which are also used by the Japanese military, are not technically military equipment because they can be purchased on the private market.

Artem Oliinyk, director of the Institute of Governmental Relations, Academy of Political Sciences of Ukraine

Artem Oliinyk explained this to us in more detail:

«The specificity of Japanese support excludes lethal means as such. This is related to the peculiarities of its internal post-war policy, because the adopted post-war constitution of Japan provided for the prohibition of maintaining land, sea and air military forces, and the rejection of war as a method of conducting politics. Currently, there are Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, which are not a full-fledged army in the legal sense».

Of course, Japan’s self-defense forces have actively participated in joint exercises, patrols, and even international operations, but the country has a number of legal restrictions. Although Japan is a strategic ally of the US in Asia, it is not a member of NATO. Direct cooperation of the USA with Australia and New Zealand is going on separately. Therefore, the security architecture developed in the Pacific region is significantly weaker and less reliable than the one currently in place in Europe.

«Besides China and North Korea, there is the illegitimate government of Myanmar, which together can continue the streak of international escalation. Then there are neutral Vietnam and the Philippines, the latter’s position is particularly sought to be influenced by its neighbors. At the same time, the same Singapore increases funding for military needs. The Russian-instigated war in Ukraine and the escalation around Taiwan will mean that competition in the arms market will only intensify, and Japan will also sign contracts for the purchase of weapons, equipment and ammunition at an increased pace».

Japan provided strong financial support for Ukraine throughout the full-scale invasion. According to our calculations, based on information from the website of the Japanese Prime Minister’s office, this country provided us with more than 1.3 billion US dollars per year (including the funds spent on grain transportation).

Japan sends bulletproof vests from defense forces to Ukraine. Source:

Also, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday announced a new $5.5 billion financial aid for Ukraine and will mark the first anniversary of the war by hosting an online Group of Seven summit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Japan has provided loans of more than 70 billion yen ($520 million) to Ukraine in emergency economic assistance. 

Ukraine also received assistance in the form of:

  • drones, body armor, steel helmets, winter clothing, tents, cameras, hygiene and food kits, binoculars, lighting equipment, medical supplies, civilian vehicles (vans);
  • provision through international organizations of generators and solar lanterns, as well as reflectors and disposable heaters for the National Police of Ukraine;
  • about 1,500 generators.

Japan has given permission to extend the validity of the resident card (residence permit) to all Ukrainians in Japan who wish to do so. The country has also accepted more than 2,000 displaced Ukrainians and helped them with housing assistance, support for jobs and education.

«It is impossible to get refugee status here — this is not Europe for you. Quotas are five people per year. People have been waiting for three years. According to Mr. Korsunskyi, instead, all doors were open for Ukrainians: large-scale support, housing, medical insurance, financial resources» — said Serhiy Korsunskyi.

Ordinary Japanese also play an active role in supporting Ukraine. For example, donations for Ukraine are collected in Buddhist temples, where religious communities pray for peace in our country. And the Japanese government makes a decision to change the traditional hieroglyphic writing of the name of Kyiv and other geographical names of Ukraine in accordance with the Ukrainian, not the Russian, imperial spelling that was used until now.

Oliinyk added that almost 90% of Japanese people support their government’s policy of condemning Russia’s actions. By the way, the percentage of Japanese who “do not feel friendly” toward Russia reached a record 94.7%.

Ukrainians residing in Japan shout slogans as they hold placards and flags during a protest rally denouncing on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, near Russian embassy in Tokyo, Japan February 23, 2022. REUTERS/Issei Kato

He said that in addition to Japan, other countries also provided assistance to Ukraine. For example, Singapore openly condemned Russian actions and unilaterally introduced restrictive measures. Australia and New Zealand joined the anti-Russian sanctions. The first, in addition, transferred military equipment, ammunition and medicines. The second transfers tactical equipment, and foreign military instructors train our troops.

“South Korea has joined anti-Russian sanctions and provides financial assistance. Its role may soon increase thanks to the developed military-industrial complex, the production of tanks and aircraft. Cambodia trains Ukrainian sappers”.

Support for Ukraine after the war is also beneficial for Japan itself, because this way it will be able to get a new geopolitical status.

“Japan can get a new geopolitical status after the end of the war if it decides to provide security guarantees to Ukraine, regardless of Ukraine’s course to join NATO. Its positive role in the reconstruction of the country, the opening of representative offices of Japanese companies and other areas of business and investment expansion will have a positive effect on the post-war state of Ukraine. Tokyo will play an important role in the expansion of Ukrainian exports among Asian countries», — told us Artem Oliinyk. 

He explained that supporting Ukraine in the war with Russia is an investment in the security of Japan and the restoration of its territorial integrity, along with the return of the Northern territories under Russian occupation (the Kuril Islands). So we can expect the growth of Tokyo’s role in the post-war settlement of Ukraine. At the same time, the greatest prospects open up for us in cooperation with South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, which are ready to take further steps. In part, this will also apply to the naval element of the armed forces, where we will need the experience and potential of these countries especially badly.

It should be added that by the Decree of the President of Ukraine, the country did not recognize the occupation of the northern territories of Japan by Russia as legal.


Tatiana Stelmakh

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