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WORLD

China, Japan Leaders End Visits to Warring Capitals

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine faced more Russian drone attacks Wednesday that killed at least three people shortly after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida left Kyiv.

Kishida was back in Poland Wednesday morning, according to Japan’s Kyodo News, and is expected to return to Japan Thursday.

Kishida’s surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital stole some of the attention from Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s trip to Moscow where he promoted Beijing’s peace proposal for Ukraine, which Western nations have already dismissed. Xi left Moscow early Wednesday.

Early Wednesday, Ukraine faced a new series of Russian drone attacks, which killed at least three people and damaged some infrastructure across the country.

The Rival visits by Xi and Kishida, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) apart, highlighted how countries are lining up behind Moscow or Kyiv during the nearly 13-month-old war. Kishida, who will chair the Group of Seven summit in May, became the group’s last member to visit Ukraine and meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, after paying tribute to those killed in Bucha, a town that became a symbol of Russian atrocities against civilians.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping toast during their dinner at The Palace of the Facets, a building in the Moscow Kremlin, Russia, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (Pavel Byrkin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Xi’s visit gave a strong political boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader on charges of alleged involvement in abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine.

In a joint statement, Russia and China emphasized the need to “respect legitimate security concerns of all countries” to settle the conflict, echoing Moscow’s argument that it sent in troops to prevent the U.S. and its NATO allies from turning the country into an anti-Russian bulwark.

Kishida called Russia’s invasion a “disgrace that undermines the foundations of the international legal order” and pledged to “continue to support Ukraine until peace is back on the beautiful Ukrainian lands.”

XI, PUTIN BLAME NATO

The Russia-China front against the West was a prominent theme of Xi’s visit. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused NATO of seeking to become the world’s dominant military force. “That is why we are expanding our cooperation with China, including in the security sphere,” he said.

After the talks, Putin and Xi issued joint declarations pledging to further bolster their “strategic cooperation,” develop cooperation in energy, high-tech industries and other spheres and expand the use of their currencies in mutual trade to reduce dependence on the West.

They said they would develop military cooperation and conduct more joint sea and air patrols, but there was no mention of Chinese weapon supplies to Russia, a prospect that the U.S. and other Western allies feared. Xi and Putin announced no major progress toward implementing the Chinese peace deal, although the Russian leader said it could be a basis for ending the fighting when the West is ready.

U.S. officials have said any peace plan coming from the Putin-Xi meeting would be unacceptable because a cease-fire would only ratify Moscow’s territorial conquests and give Russia time to plan for a renewed offensive.

Putin is keen to show he has a heavyweight ally and market for Russian energy products under Western sanctions. He and Xi signed agreements on economic cooperation, noting Russian-Chinese trade rose by 30% last year to $185 billion and is expected to top $200 billion this year.

Russia stands “ready to meet the Chinese economy’s growing demand for energy resources” by boosting deliveries of oil and gas, he said, while listing other areas of cooperation, including aircraft and shipbuilding industries and other high-tech sectors.

Further contacts are planned. Xi said he invited Putin to China this year to discuss a regional initiative that seeks to extend Beijing’s influence through economic cooperation.

After meeting Kishida, Zelenskyy told reporters his team had sent his own peace formula to China but hasn’t heard back, adding that there were “some signals, but nothing concrete about the possibility of a dialogue.”

KISHIDA CONDEMNS RUSSIAN “CRUELTY”

Hours before Xi and Putin dined at a state dinner in glittering Kremlin opulence, Kishida laid flowers at a church in Bucha for the town’s victims.

“Upon this visit to Bucha, I feel a strong resentment against cruelty,” Kishida said. “I would like to represent the people in Japan, and express my deepest condolences to those who lost their loved ones, were injured as a result of this cruel act.”

Japan’s top government spokesman said Wednesday that Kishida’s visit to Ukraine was “very meaningful” for Japan’s future support for that country, while taking a leadership role as president of the Group of Seven nations in responding to the issue.

“Through Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to Ukraine, Japan was able to show not only to other members of the G-7 but also the international society including the Global South (nations) its determination to defend the rules-based international society,” he said.

Matsuno noted that the China-Russia summit took place almost at the same time as Kishida’s visit to Ukraine, and said “President Xi (Jinping)’s visit to Russia only underscored the unwavering ties between China and Russia despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel noted the “two very different European-Pacific partnerships” that unfolded Tuesday.

“Kishida stands with freedom, and Xi stands with a war criminal,” Emanuel tweeted, referring to Friday’s decision by the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Putin, saying it wanted to put him on trial for the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, centre, offers prayers, at a church in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv that became a symbol of Russian atrocities against civilians, in Ukraine, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Office via AP)

DRONE ATTACKS CONTINUE

The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said that Russia struck Ukraine with Iranian-made Shahed exploding drones.

It said air defenses downed 16 of the 21 drones launched by Russia. The Kyiv military administration said that eight of the drones were downed near the Ukrainian capital.

A high school and two dormitories were partially destroyed in an overnight drone attack in the city of Rzhyshchiv, in Ukraine’s north-central Kyiv province, local officials said Wednesday morning. “As of 7 a.m., three people were killed, two people were wounded and one person was rescued. There are probably four people under the rubble,” the Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported.

In neighboring Zhytomyr province exploding drones damaged infrastructure facilities, according to regional Gov. Vitalii Bunechko. He said Ukrainian air defenses shot down three drones.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Moscow-appointed head of the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, said the Russian military has fended off a drone attack on the main harbor early Wednesday.

Razvozhayev said the Russian navy destroyed three unmanned sea drones that attempted to attack Sevastopol that serves as the main base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. He said that Russian warships weren’t damaged in the attack, but added that several civilian facilities were slightly damaged when the drones were hit and exploded, shattering windows in several buildings near the harbor. He said there were no injuries. Ukrainian officials didn’t claim responsibility for the attacks.

 

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