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US Congress Japan PM Fumio Kishida
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s address during a joint meeting of Congress was largely met with standing ovations and applause. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Japan’s Prime Minister Sends a Message to Republicans on Ukraine

“I detect an undercurrent of self-doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said during his joint address.

Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, addressed the United States Congress with a clear message for House Republicans: help fund Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.

Fresh off a state dinner with President Joe Biden, Kishida’s joint address to Congress left little question about how the world sees the United States’ stalemate over Ukraine aid.

“Freedom and democracy are currently under threat around the globe,” Kishida said. “As we meet here today, I detect an undercurrent of self-doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be.”

The prime minister went on: “Without U.S. support, how long before the hopes of Ukraine would collapse under the onslaught from Moscow?”

Kishida’s comments were largely met with standing ovations and applause. Still, several of the chamber’s House Republicans conspicuously remained seated and quiet as Kishida pointed out that the “Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow” or highlighted the funds Japan has pledged for Ukraine.

Republican Rep. Tim Burchett, for example, who has voted against additional aid to Ukraine, repeatedly remained in his chair during standing ovations, arms folded. Other Republicans, too, like Reps. Andy Biggs, Austin Scott and Scott Franklin stayed seated and didn’t always participate in the applause or ovations.

“I think when he’s a proponent of us spending more of our money, I can’t go there,” Burchett told NOTUS after the prime minister’s address. “I like what he said about North Korea, I like what he said about China, I like that he appears to be a capitalist. So, you know, 85 to 90% of what he said I could agree with.”

Kishida called attention to the sanctions Japan has placed against Russia and the “over $12 billion in aid to Ukraine, including anti-drone detection systems.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson says he plans to bring an aid package for Ukraine to the House floor next week, but the details remain totally in flux. As NOTUS reported, House Republicans still don’t agree whether the funds should be given as aid or as a loan or how far-reaching the package should be.

Republican Rep. French Hill, a longtime supporter of aid to both Ukraine and Israel, welcomed Kishida’s comments, saying that providing both “lethal and humanitarian support” is critical “if we are partners for peace and prosperity around the world.”

“If we don’t draw the line, we don’t convince [Vladimir] Putin that he cannot succeed, and his taking over of Ukraine, that is going to create a lack of deterrence in East Asia, and that’s what Prime Minister Kishida was warning,” Hill said.

His colleagues across the aisle — who have been unified in their support of sending additional funds to Ukraine — agreed.

“He wants us not to forget, you know, that we are indispensable in the region. But I mean, I certainly hope the message was heard by the recalcitrant ones,” Rep. Jim Himes said of the speech and what he called “a few lasting holdout” Republicans.

The Senate passed $60 billion in aid for Ukraine in February.

John T. Seward is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.