The government is trying to schedule a visit by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko before Japan hosts the Group of Seven summit in late May, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.
They said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would meet with Poroshenko and voice G-7 support for Ukraine amid continued clashes with pro-Russian rebels despite a cease-fire agreed on a year ago.
Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Tokyo has tried to maintain a balance in its relations with Moscow and Kiev while fielding pressure from Washington, the sources said. Washington has warned repeatedly that it is not time for “business as usual” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Japan, the United States and other members of the international community have imposed sanctions on Russia, and G-7 nations have kicked Moscow out of their midst.
However, Tokyo has recently stepped up talks with Moscow to try to resolve the territorial dispute over the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that has festered since 1945.
Abe reportedly hopes to meet Putin on or around May 6 in Russia to set the stage for him to visit Japan. Earlier plans to welcome Putin to Japan were put off over events in Ukraine.
Japan hopes that strengthening ties with Ukraine and showing its commitment to resolving the crisis will be acceptable to the United States, sources close to the matter said.
The G-7 groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.