On Friday, President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida used their first official meeting to discuss concerns about China’s growing military assertiveness that is causing growing concern in the Pacific.
Kishida said the two leaders spent a “significant part” of their 80-minute call on issues surrounding China, including shared concerns about China’s growing aggression against Taiwan. China claims Taiwan’s autonomy as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary. In recent months, China has stepped up military exercises near Taiwan, frequently sending warplanes near the island’s airspace.
Biden and Kishida also discussed the situation in Hong Kong and China’s Xinjiang province. Biden has repeatedly called out Beijing for its crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong and forced labor practices targeting China’s Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
“President Biden and I were able to exchange views frankly, in a very calm and quiet way, on how Japan and the United States cooperate and lead international society together, which I believe will lead to a further strengthening of the Japan-US alliance,” Kishida said after the meeting.
The White House said the leaders also discussed opportunities to strengthen economic ties between the two nations, launching a new “2 plus 2” dialogue focused on resolving economic issues, ranging from supply chain challenges and investments in key technologies to increased cooperation on trade issues. . Japan also expressed support for the Indo-Pacific economic framework proposed by the Biden administration and pledged to work to build support for the initiative in the region.
Biden accepted Kishida’s invitation to travel to Japan later this spring for an official visit and to attend this year’s Quad Summit, the meeting held between the leaders of Japan, the United States, Australia and India.
Japan remains concerned about China’s intentions in the South China Sea, where it has strengthened its military presence in recent years, and in the East China Sea, where there is a long-standing dispute over a group of uninhabited islets administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
Kishida said after the meeting that he expressed his determination to significantly strengthen Japan’s defense power while Biden spoke of the United States’ commitment to the 1960 Japan-United States security treaty and made clear that it covers the disputed islands of Senkaku under Japanese control, that China refers to Diaoyu.
Later, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said Kishida explained his commitment to boosting Japan’s military capability, saying the prime minister would consider “all options, including acquiring a preventive strike capability”.
The virtual meeting came after North Korea this week suggested it could resume nuclear and long-range missile testing, which has been suspended for more than three years.
On Thursday, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un chaired a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party Politburo in which officials set policy goals to “immediately boost” military capabilities to counter what have been described as the “hostile movements” of the Americans, according to the Korean Central. Press Agency.
The White House said Biden made it clear to Kishida that the United States would work closely with South Korea and Japan on next steps to discourage North Korea from further provocations. The Biden administration plans to announce further steps to address North Korea in the coming days, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The two leaders discussed ongoing efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic and the brewing crisis in Eastern Europe, where Russia has massed some 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. Biden said earlier this week that he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely to order another invasion of Ukrainian territory, but he didn’t think Putin wanted all-out war.
Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb at the end of World War II, said he told Biden about his concerns about nuclear security and the idea of achieving “a world without nuclear weapons”.
Biden and his top aides have sought to rally support from NATO partners and other allies to respond with tough sanctions on Russia if it continues its military action. Kishida expressed support for Biden’s efforts to deter Russia and made it clear that Japan would fully support the United States and continue to coordinate with other allies to take strong action if Russia attacks, according to the official. the Biden administration.
On Thursday, in preparation for the leaders’ call, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and his Japanese counterpart, Takeo Akiba, held their own call to discuss North Korea, China and ” the importance of solidarity to signal to Moscow the strong and united response that would result from any attack” on Ukraine, according to the White House.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also held virtual talks earlier this month with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, where the military maneuvers of China and North Korea’s nuclear program were discussed.
Friday’s virtual meeting was the first substantial exchange between the leaders since Kishida took office in October. They had a brief chat on the sidelines of a climate summit in Glasgow in November. Biden was the first leader to call Kishida, on the morning of his first full day in office.
Biden, who has sought to put more emphasis on the Indo-Pacific amid China’s rise as a global power, had forged a warm relationship with Japan’s last prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, and hopes form a similar relationship with Kishida.
Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. AP writer Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting from Washington.