Biden and Kishida push for a greater military role for Japan in Asia to confront China |  International

Biden and Kishida push for a greater military role for Japan in Asia to confront China | International

Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister of Japan, with Joe Biden, this Friday at the White House.
Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister of Japan, with Joe Biden, this Friday at the White House.MANDEL NGAN (AFP)

The United States is “totally, absolutely, exhaustively committed” to the defense of Japan, Joe Biden assured this Friday. The US president met this Friday in the Oval Office with the Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida. Their common objective: to promote Japan’s military role in Asia and modernize the bilateral alliance, essential for both countries in the face of the threat that both perceive in the rise of China.

“Japan and the United States are facing the largest and most complex security climate in modern history,” Kishida said at the beginning of the meeting, which included a working lunch. The Japanese Prime Minister, whose country is chairing the G7 this year, concluded with this meeting a tour of the capitals of this group of more advanced economies in which the closing of security agreements has played a leading role.

Japan last month adopted a new national security strategy that represents its biggest shift in defense policy since the war and gives a new role to its Self-Defense Forces, the Japanese army. This country will acquire new anti-aircraft defense capabilities – it plans to purchase dozens of American Tomahawk missiles – and will increase its military budget by 25% this year. Its military spending will go from 1 to 2% of GDP in the next five years. This initiative seeks to respond, in part, to the rearmament of North Korea and the belligerence of Russia -with whom it maintains a territorial dispute in the Kuril Islands-. But, above all, it seeks to counteract the forced modernization of the Chinese forces, already converted into the second most powerful army in the world.

Since then, the United States has welcomed the Japanese turn again and again. Kishida is “a true leader and a true friend,” Biden argued as both leaders smiled for the cameras as they sat by the Oval Office fireplace. “Our security alliance has never been stronger,” said a joint statement released by the White House after the meeting. “Both leaders reaffirmed that the alliance remains the pillar of peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.”

The defense and foreign officials of both countries met on Wednesday in the US capital to approve a reinforcement of their bilateral military alliance, which for Tokyo represents the foundation of its foreign policy and for Washington, the pillar of its security strategy in Asia. . The two governments agreed to extend to space and Japanese satellites the protection that the US nuclear umbrella guarantees Japan. This Friday, both governments planned to sign a space cooperation agreement at NASA headquarters.

In addition, a new US marine infantry unit will be created to replace another artillery unit and will be based in Okinawa, in the south of the Japanese archipelago. As stated by the US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, this unit will be “more lethal, more flexible and more capable”.

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And above all, given where it will be based, it will be close to Taiwanese waters. The self-governing island, aligned with the West and which China considers part of its territory, is the great concern of Tokyo and Washington in the area and the main point of friction with Beijing, which does not renounce unification by force. Both the White House and Japan’s Kantei anticipate that in the event of a conflict over the island, Japan would play a key military role in Taiwan’s defense.

“We reiterate the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of security and prosperity in the international community,” the joint statement said.

Biden and Kishida, who also discussed North Korea’s nuclear program and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – Japan was the first Asian country to impose retaliatory sanctions against Moscow – did not limit their conversation to security issues. Both also planned to address issues of mutual economic interest, such as global supply chains, or the semiconductor sector.

Washington has approved important restrictions on the use by Chinese companies of US semiconductor technology, and the collaboration of Japan, one of Beijing’s major trading partners, is essential for the success of this measure. Until now, and although Tokyo has pronounced good words about the US steps, it has avoided explicitly joining that initiative.

“We will deepen our shared leadership on economic security, including protecting and promoting strategic and emerging technologies, including semiconductors; space, including our new Framework Agreement for Space; and energy security and clean energy, where we have deepened our cooperation on nuclear energy while adhering to the highest standards against proliferation,” the joint statement said.

Both leaders will meet again in person at the G7 summits in Hiroshima, Kishida’s hometown, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in San Francisco (California) in November of this year.

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