Biden meets Japan's leader to boost China-facing alliances

Elias Hubbard
April 17, 2021

President Joe Biden today receives Japan's prime minister for his first in-person summit, with the leaders expected to announce a US$2 billion 5G initiative as part of a concerted U.S. push to compete with China.

Suga and Biden, who wore masks for their meeting in a visit modified by precautions against the coronavirus, were seeking to challenge messaging from Chinese President Xi Jinping that America and democracies in general are on the decline following the political turmoil and worldwide withdrawal that marked Donald Trump's presidency.

Before Suga's meeting with Biden, China's Foreign Affairs Ministry warned Japan against "being misled by some countries holding biased views against China". His administration pushed its comfort zone in a statement stressing "peace and stability" on the Taiwan Strait.

Biden and Suga are also expected to discuss other regional security issues, including North Korea's nuclear program.

A joint statement called for "candid conversations" with China and did not hold back, raising concerns over Beijing's growing maritime moves, its clampdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and growing tension over Taiwan.

President Joe Biden listens as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Friday.

Suga also called for peace and stability in Taiwan, and urged China - whose disputed claim to Taiwan is a potential flashpoint in the region and with the United States - to peacefully resolve the dispute.

In another swipe at China, Biden said the United States and Japan will invest together in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, genomics and semiconductor supply chains.

In a highly unusual comment by a Japanese leader on the U.S. domestic scene, Suga also voiced concern over a wave of attacks in the United States against people of Asian descent. "That includes making sure we invest in and protect technologies that will maintain and sharpen our competitive edge".

Attention had been focused on wording on the topic, given caution in Tokyo about the need to balance its security concerns with Japan's deep economic ties with China.

"Japan's basic policy on pending issues caused by China is to firmly assert what should be asserted and strongly request China to take specific action", he said.

Earlier, the Japanese leader held talks with US Vice President Kamala Harris.

Japan hosts approximately 55,000 US troops. The driveway was lined with a flag-bearing military honor guard.

On Friday morning, Suga participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. But he also said Tokyo will seek a "stable and constructive relationship" with China, which is the world's second largest economy and Japan's largest trading partner.

"We're going to work together to prove that democracies can still compete and win in the 21st century", Biden, affectionately calling the Japanese leader "Yoshi", told a socially distanced news conference in the White House Rose Garden. Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections with fewer than 100 days until the planned start. "He won the Masters", Biden said.

Suga said in March that he plans to invite Biden to the Olympics, due to open on July 23 following a one-year postponement due to the spread of COVID-19. That helped guide Biden's decision, announced this week, to pull USA troops out of Afghanistan and free the administration to focus more on East Asia.

With the Suga meeting and another planned summit with South Korea in May, Biden hopes to energize joint efforts with Australia, India and Japan in a grouping known as the Quad, as well as with South Korea, to counter China and longtime US foe North Korea.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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