Biden 'looks forward' to meeting Zelensky in Hiroshima: White House
AFP | DC Correspondent
US President Joe Biden (AP)
HIROSHIMA: US President Joe Biden "looks forward" to meeting Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky in Hiroshima, the White House said Saturday, confirming the pair would meet on the sidelines of a G7 summit.
"It's a safe bet that President Biden will meet him," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, without offering details on when the talks would happen.
"The president looks forward to the opportunity to be able to sit down face-to-face."
The Ukrainian president was expected to arrive in Japan on Saturday after an earlier stop in Saudi Arabia, according to local media.
The surprise appearance of Zelensky at the meeting of the world's richest democracies comes right after the White House finally announced it would permit allied countries to supply Ukraine with American-built F-16 fighter aircraft.
Ukraine has been pleading for the advanced planes to replace its aging and war-battered Soviet-era fleet, but Biden had previously said the US would not approve transfers.
Washington expressed concern over provoking Moscow and becoming more directly involved in the war.
Sullivan said the F-16 transfers would not upset the key balance Washington wants in supporting Ukraine "in a way that avoids World War III".
He said the powerful warplanes would be used only for defense.
"The United States is not enabling or supporting attacks on Russian territory," he said, "and the Ukrainians have consistently indicated that they are prepared to follow through on that."
Responding to criticism that the United States waited for too long before giving allies the green light to send Ukraine their F-16s, Sullivan said the Ukrainians do not need the planes for an expected offensive to drive Russians back in the coming weeks.
Instead, the F-16s and accompanying training for pilots will be part of a long-term rebuilding of the Ukrainian airforce.
"We've reached a moment where it's time to look down the road and to say 'what is Ukraine going to need... to be able to deter and defend against Russian aggression?'"
"F-16s, fourth-generation fighter aircraft are part of that mix. The obvious first step there is to do the training and then to work with allies, partners and the Ukrainians to determine how to do the actual provision points as we move forward."