WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden told Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday that the United States was “fully, thoroughly, completely” committed to Japan’s defense, praising Tokyo’s security buildup and saying the nations had never been closer.
Kishida is in Washington on the last stop of his tour of the G7 industrial powers, seeking to strengthen long-standing alliances in Japan and the United States amid growing concerns about growing regional security threats from China, North Korea and Russia.
During the meeting at the White House, Biden called it a “remarkable moment” in the US-Japan alliance. He said that the two countries have never been so close.
“Let me be clear: The United States is fully, comprehensively, totally committed to the alliance and most importantly … to the defense of Japan,” he said, while also thanking Kishida for his strong leadership in technology and economic cooperation. issues.
“We are modernizing our military alliances, building on Japan’s historic increase in defense spending and a new national security strategy,” Biden said.
Kishida thanked Biden for the work done by the United States in the field of regional security and said: “Japan and the United States are currently facing the most difficult and complex security environment in recent history.” According to him, Tokyo has formulated a new defense strategy announced last month “to ensure peace and prosperity in the region”.
According to him, the two countries share fundamental values such as democracy and the rule of law, and “the role we have to play is growing.”
Kishida said he looked forward to a “frank” exchange of views, including a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” the language the two sides used to describe their efforts to push back against China — the G7 currently chaired by Japan — and the climate. is waiting. change.
In a later speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Kishida called China a “central challenge” for both Japan and the United States, and said that they and Europe should be united in dealing with the country.
DRAMATIC MILITARY CHANGE
Last month, Japan announced its largest military increase since World War II – a dramatic departure from 70 years of pacifism, driven largely by concerns about China’s moves in the region.
A joint US-Japan statement issued after the meeting said: “Biden commended Japan’s bold leadership in fundamentally strengthening its defense capabilities and strengthening diplomatic efforts.”
The foreign and defense ministers of the United States and Japan met on Wednesday to announce increased security cooperation after nearly two years of talks, with US officials praising Tokyo’s military buildup plans.
Japan’s military reform plan would double defense spending to 2% of GDP and buy missiles capable of hitting ships or land-based targets up to 1,000 km (600 miles) away.
Ahead of the meeting, a senior US official said Biden and Kishida would discuss security issues and the global economy, and that their talks would include controls on semiconductor exports to China after Washington announced tough restrictions last year.
The United States and Japan will “sharpen our shared interests in economic security, including the protection and promotion of critical and emerging technologies, including semiconductors,” the joint statement said.
In Kishi, Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken later signed an agreement on peaceful space exploration at NASA headquarters in Washington.
Blinken said it would take space cooperation to “new heights” and strengthen partnerships in areas including space technology and transportation research, robotic lunar surface missions, climate-related missions and “our shared ambition to see a Japanese astronaut on the lunar surface.” .”
At the ceremony, Kishida said that the US-Japan alliance is “stronger than ever”.
In addition to chairing the G7, Japan started working in the UN Security Council for a two-year term from January 1, and for the month of January, it presides over the 15-member body on a monthly basis.
Kishida said he supports Biden’s effort to limit China’s access to advanced semiconductors through export restrictions. Still, it has not agreed to comply with broad restrictions on exports of chip-making equipment that Washington imposed in October.
The US official said that Washington is working closely with Japan on this issue and believes that they share a similar vision even though their legal structures are different. The more countries and significant players that support controls, the more effective they will be, he said.
The Japanese official said that economic security, including semiconductors, will be discussed, but no announcement is expected from the meeting.
Biden and Kishida expressed their commitment to “strengthening vital trilateral cooperation” between the United States, Japan and South Korea, a joint statement issued after North Korea’s decision to exponentially increase its nuclear power and codify its right of first strike.
Kishida’s visit follows Biden’s visit to Tokyo in May and a meeting between the two at a regional summit in Cambodia in November.
(This story has been refiled to remove the additional word “defense” in paragraph 1)
Reporting by Jeff Mason, Andrea Shalal, David Brunnstrom, Michael Martina, Tim Ahmann and Eric Beech; Edited by Don Durfee, Alistair Bell and Grant McCool
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