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Biden hails 'good friend' Kishida, says US fully committed to Japan's defence

23 May 2022 - 10:51 By Trevor Hunnicutt
US president Joe Biden.
US president Joe Biden.
Image: JONATHAN ERNST/ REUTERS / File photo

President Joe Biden assured his “good friend” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan on Monday that the US is fully committed to Japan's defence, amid simmering tension with China and the ramifications of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The cornerstone of Biden's visit, which includes meetings with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, in the “Quad” group, will be the launch of an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a broad plan providing an economic pillar for US engagement with Asia.

“The US-Japan alliance has long been the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, and the US remains fully committed to Japan's defence,” Biden said at the beginning of talks with Kishida at the Akasaka Palace in central Tokyo.

Biden was greeted with a military honour guard that played the anthems of both countries under a bright blue sky.

Earlier, he met Emperor Naruhito, talking briefly at the palace entrance before being ushered inside. The White House said Biden offered greetings on behalf of the American people, highlighting the strength of the US-Japan relationship.

The two are expected to discuss Japan's plans to expand its military reach and capabilities in response to China's growing might. They are also expected to reconfirm close ties in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, agreeing that unilateral changes to the status quo by force are unacceptable.

“It shows that the US will strengthen its involvement in the Indo-Pacific region no matter what the circumstances,” Kishida said ahead of their meeting.

Worries are growing in Asia about an increasingly assertive China, particularly in light of its close ties to Russia, and tension has risen over self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

North Korea will also be on the agenda, with Biden later on Monday scheduled to meet families of Japanese who were abducted years ago to train spies in North Korea.

But the centrepiece will be the US leader's launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a programme to bind countries more closely through common standards in areas including supply-chain resilience, clean energy, infrastructure and digital trade.

The US has lacked an economic pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump withdrew from a multinational Trans-Pacific trade agreement, leaving the field open to China to expand its influence.

But the IPEF is unlikely to include binding commitments, and Asian countries and trade experts have given a lukewarm response to a programme limited by Biden's reluctance to risk American jobs by offering the increased market access the region craves.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due in Japan for the Quad talks, with Australia's new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, also expected.

Biden arrived in Japan late on Sunday from South Korea and will leave on Tuesday for the US.

Reuters

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