Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday that his government will supply Ukraine with defense equipment, such as bulletproof vests and helmets, in what was seen as a rare move by Japan amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Kishida said that defense equipment, including bulletproof vests, helmets, tents, winter clothing, food items, hygiene products, cameras, and power generators, will be sent to Ukraine by Japan’s Self Defense Forces.
“We hope to deliver the goods to support the people of Ukraine who are facing difficulties as soon as possible,” Kishida was quoted saying by local media Kyodo News.
The announcement was made after the National Security Council’s meeting on Friday.
This is an uncommon move for Japan, as the country had long banned the export of defense equipment. The ban was overturned by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2014, who allowed exports in cases that contribute to global peace and serve Japan’s security interests.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said that the decision was made at the request of Ukraine and is in accordance with Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution, adding that Japan will not provide weapons to Ukraine.
“As a nation that experienced the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident [in 2011], Japan condemns [Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] in the strongest possible terms,” Kishida said.
Japan is following the lead of numerous Western countries in providing military assistance to Ukraine, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.
U.S. President Joe Biden ordered the State Department on Feb. 26 to deploy $350 million worth of weapons to Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft systems, ammunition, and body armor.
The Canadian government is sending an additional $25 million in military aid to Ukraine on Feb. 27, while the United Kingdom pledged to provide both lethal and non-lethal aid to Ukraine.
The Swedish government approved the shipment of 5,000 anti-tank weapons, 135,000 field rations, 5,000 helmets, and 5,000 pieces of body armor.
Japan’s government has also pledged to extend $100 million in emergency humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and to accept Ukrainians who are seeking refuge in a third country.
The United Nations has estimated that close to 700,000 people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries since the invasion began nearly a week ago, in what the U.N. Refugee Agency says looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century. Around half of the refugees are currently in Poland.
Japan has also banned Russian banks from the SWIFT global interbank network and froze the assets of seven Russian banks. It also blocked the assets of several Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, and prohibited exports to 49 Russian entities.
Autumn Spredemann and Reuters contributed to this report.