US president Joe Biden arrives in Japan to reaffirm bilateral ties

  • On the second leg of his first Asia trip as president, Biden is to meet with leaders of Japan, India and Australia, the Quad, another cornerstone of his strategy to push back against China’s expanding influence.
Protesters march against the talks between the US, Japan and other Quad leaders in Tokyo, Japan. REUTERS
Protesters march against the talks between the US, Japan and other Quad leaders in Tokyo, Japan. REUTERS
Published on May 23, 2022 03:09 AM IST
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President Joe Biden arrived in Japan on Sunday to launch a plan for greater U.S. economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific, facing criticism even before the programme is announced that it will offer scant benefit to countries in the region.

On the second leg of his first Asia trip as president, Biden is to meet with leaders of Japan, India and Australia, the Quad, another cornerstone of his strategy to push back against China’s expanding influence.

On Monday, he and Kishida are expected to discuss Japan’s plans to expand its military capabilities and reach in response to China’s growing might.

IPEF roll-out

Biden on Monday plans to roll out the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a programme to bind regional countries more closely through common standards in areas including supply-chain resilience, clean energy, infrastructure and digital trade.

Washington has lacked an economic pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump quit 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 decidedly lukewarm response to a programme limited by Biden’s reluctance to risk American jobs by offering the increased market access the region craves.

The White House had wanted it the IPEF announcement to represent a formal start of negotiations with a core group of like-minded countries, but Japan wanted to ensure broader participation to include as many Southeast Asian countries as possible, trade and diplomatic sources said.

Given this, Monday’s ceremony will likely signal an agreement to start discussions on IPEF rather than actual negotiations, the sources said.

Beijing appeared to take a dim view of the planned IPEF.

China welcomes initiatives conducive to strengthening regional cooperation but “opposes attempts to create division and confrontation””, foreign minister Wang Yi said in a statement. “The Asia-Pacific should become a high ground for peaceful development, not a geopolitical gladiatorial arena.”

Some members of the Association of Southeast Asian nations could join the IPEF launch ceremony, an Asian diplomat said, but a Japanese finance ministry official said many in the region were reluctant because of the lack of practical incentives like tariff reductions.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One that Taiwan would not be a part of the IPEF launch but that Washington is looking to deepen its economic relationship with the self-governing island.

Quad summit

On Tuesday in Tokyo, Biden will join the second in-person Quad summit. The four countries share concerns about China, but the Quad as a group has avoided an overtly anti-China agenda, largely due to Indian sensibilities.

They will unveil a maritime initiative at summit to curb illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific, the Financial Times reported on Saturday, citing a US official.

The said that the maritime initiative will use satellite technology to create a tracking system for illegal fishing from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific by connecting surveillance centres in Singapore and India.

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Friday, July 01, 2022