Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after their meeting on March 21 in Kyiv. (Tadashi Sugiyama)

KYIV--Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is vowing to provide more assistance to Ukraine after meeting face to face with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the first time in the war-torn country.

Standing alongside Zelenskyy in a show of solidarity, Kishida announced Japan will provide the equivalent of $30 million (about 4 billion yen) in non-lethal weapons and other defense equipment to Ukraine through a NATO fund.

Kishida said the two also agreed to upgrade their bilateral relationship to a “special global partnership.”

“I strongly wanted to meet directly with him to express Japan’s unwavering solidarity,” Kishida said during the joint news conference on March 21 with Zelenskyy.

Kishida said his visit to Ukraine is meant to underscore the outrageousness of Russia’s invasion and send a message that it has shaken the very foundation of international order.

He also stressed that Japan, as the only nation to have atomic bombs dropped on it in war, could never accept Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

Zelenskyy meanwhile announced that he will join the Group of Seven summit, scheduled for Hiroshima in May, as an online participant.

Zelenskyy said he was very happy that Kishida was able to visit his nation while Japan is both a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and is in the midst of preparations for hosting this year’s G-7 summit.

He repeatedly thanked Japan for the various support it has offered, which he described as “an investment for a rules-based international order,” and even called Kishida by his first name during the news conference.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is expected to be one of the main themes of the G-7 summit.

“There is huge significance in having the prime minister himself actually observe what the combat situation is like in Ukraine before taking on the role of summit host,” a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said.

Government officials are also casting a cautious eye toward recent moves by China, such as working to normalize diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as calling on Russia and Ukraine to resume dialogue toward a cease-fire.

A source in the prime minister’s office said they “could not have allowed China to hold a summit meeting with Ukraine” before Japan because that might have affected Japan’s position as G-7 host.