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Ukraine war

Japan to give Ukraine bulletproof vests, relief goods

Country's pacifist constitution allows donation of nonlethal items

Japan Self-Defense Forces preparing relief supplies for Tonga after the island was devastated by a volcanic eruption and tsunami in January.   © Reuters

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will provide bullet-proof vests and other defense supplies to Ukraine following Russia's aggression in the Eastern European country, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Friday, in a rare delivery of equipment by the Self-Defense Forces to a country under armed attack.    

The goods to be delivered by the SDF and through other channels also include helmets, tents, winter clothing, food items, hygiene products, cameras and power generators, the Japanese government said, as Russia escalates its attack on Ukraine despite international condemnation.    

The provision of such non-lethal items comes at the request of Ukraine and falls within the scope of Japan's war-renouncing Constitution, Japan's top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said.    

The timing for delivery has not been worked out, and Japan does not plan to provide Ukraine with weapons, he added.    

The United States and European nations are moving to provide weapons to Ukraine to help bolster its defenses against Russia's aggression.    

Kishida conveyed his government's plan to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy over the phone on Friday.    

During the call, Kishida told Zelenskyy that Japan strongly condemns Russia's attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, the largest in Europe.    

"The attack is totally unacceptable and outrageous," Kishida told reporters. "As a nation that experienced the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident (in 2011), Japan condemns it in the strongest possible terms."    

"We hope to deliver the goods to support the people of Ukraine who are facing difficulties as soon as possible," he said.    

Japan has also pledged humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and plans to accept people fleeing the conflict-hit nation.    

The latest decision underscores Japan's increased commitment to supporting Ukraine, whose sovereignty and territorial integrity have been undermined since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.    

Under Japan's Constitution, there are strict rules on the transfer of defense equipment, and shipping it to a country "party to a conflict" is not allowed.    

Matsuno said the term refers to "a country against which the U.N. Security Council is taking steps to maintain or restore peace and security" and does not apply to Ukraine.    

"The international community is united in providing unprecedented assistance to Ukraine as we are in a situation where (Russia's military attack) is undermining the peace and stability of the world," he told a press briefing.

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