Don’t doubt yourself, the world needs you: Japan’s PM makes a plea to America | World News - Hindustan Times

Don’t doubt yourself, the world needs you: Japan’s PM makes a plea to America

Apr 11, 2024 10:19 PM IST

China represents greatest strategic challenge; Ukraine today can be east Asia tomorrow, Japanese premier said in an address to US Congress

Washington: In a sign that the anxieties over the possible return of Donald Trump extend beyond Europe, Japan’s PM Kishida Fumio had a clear message for Americans during his address to the US Congress on Thursday: Don’t doubt yourself and your global role, the world needs you.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses a joint meeting of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, on Thursday. (REUTERS)
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses a joint meeting of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, on Thursday. (REUTERS)

On the third day of his state visit to Washington DC, after committing to the most significant upgrade to the security alliance between Japan and US, Kishida used his moment on Capitol Hill to address Republicans in the House and the increasingly isolationist constituency outside to paint a picture of a world where American leadership was “indispensable” to deal with old and new threats, including those posed by China and Russia. In this task, he assured the US that it was not alone, and a new Japan that was more conscious of its security obligations would be an active partner.

“The US shaped the international order in the postwar world through economic, diplomatic, military and technological power. It championed freedom and democracy. It encouraged the stability and prosperity of nations, including Japan….The world needs the US to continue playing this pivotal role in the affairs of the nation. And yet, I detect an undercurrent of self doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be,” Kishida said.

This self-doubt, the Japanese PM warned, was arising at a time when the world was at “history’s turning point”. Among the changes underway that he mentioned were the challenges to freedom and democracy, the climate crisis, the rise of artificial intelligence, the rise of the global south.

But Kishida’s main focus was the current geopolitical moment. He told Senators and representatives that China’s “current external stance and military actions” presented an “unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge” to both the peace and security of Japan and to the peace and stability of the international community. “While such a challenge from China continues, our commitment to upholding a free and open international order based on the rule of law, as well as peace, will continue to be the defining agenda going forward.”

Kishida also spoke extensively about Ukraine, with a clear eye on the segment of Republicans in the House who have blocked a new security assistance package for Kyiv. “As I often say, Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow,” Kishida warned the US, an allusion to how China was watching the developments in Ukraine closely and would take lessons for its own plans of aggression.

Kishida then turned back to the wider American society and said he wanted to address the sense of “loneliness and exhaustion” of being the country that had upheld the international order “almost single-handedly” and how it was a “heavy burden”. He said that the US could not be expected to do this alone, but its leadership was indispensable.

“Without US support, how long before the hope of Ukraine would collapse under the onslaught from Moscow? Without the presence of the US, how long before Indo-Pacific would face even harsher realities?,” Kishida said, adding that as America’s closest friend, Japan would stand alongside the US for the “survival of liberty”.

In an indirect acknowledgment of those in the American political theatre who criticised allies for not doing their bit, Kishida said that Japan had changed. “Japan has transformed its national security strategy. Uncertainty about the future stability of the Indo-Pacific region caused us to change our policies and mindset,” the PM said.

He pointed to Japan increasing its defence budget to 2% of the GDP, acquiring counterstrike capabilities, improving cybersecurity, sanctioning Russia, providing $12 billion in aid to Ukraine and hosting a conference for its economic growth, working with Nato, becoming America’s “global partner”, working on Quad with Australia and India and unveiling a new trilateral arrangement with both US and South Korea and US and Philippines. These endeavours, Kishida told American lawmakers, had created a “multilayered regional framework” and required strong bipartisan support.

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