With an eye on China, Kishida and Biden elevate US-Japan ties | World News - Hindustan Times
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With an eye on China, Kishida and Biden elevate US-Japan ties

Apr 11, 2024 06:22 AM IST

The two leaders also agreed to deepen military industrial cooperation including co-production of weapons and work on critical and emerging technologies

Washington: US President Joe Biden and Japan’s PM Kishida Fumio agreed on Wednesday to dramatically modernise their bilateral security partnership by changing the US military command structure in Japan and announced a new networked architecture for missile defence between the two countries and Australia.

US President Joe Biden (right) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (REUTERS)
US President Joe Biden (right) shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on Wednesday. (REUTERS)

The import of the announcements, which will ensure better military coordination in the Indo-Pacific, reflected the focus by Washington and its partners to keep a watch on China. Biden described the announcements as the most significant upgrade in their alliance.

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The two leaders also agreed to deepen military industrial cooperation including co-production of weapons, work on critical and emerging technologies, involve Japan in the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (Aukus) arrangement, and collaborate on space and artificial intelligence (AI).

During Kishida’s state visit to Washington DC on Wednesday, the two leaders hailed the US and Japan as global partners, with US officials suggesting the allies have moved from “alliance protection” to “alliance projection” and their cooperation will expand to every global theatre. The joint statement was set to be titled “global partners for the future”.

On Thursday, the US, Japan and Philippines will also hold their first trilateral summit, a significant and explicit signal to China which has stepped up its aggression in the maritime domain against Manila.

In a visit that was similar to the one Biden hosted for Indian PM Narendra Modi in June, the American and Japanese leaders had a small private dinner on Tuesday night. Biden then welcomed Kishida in the south lawns of the White House on Wednesday morning, which was followed by brief remarks to reporters at the Oval Office and then delegation-level talks. “I would assert that our alliance has never been stronger in our entire history,” Biden said as the two leaders began their talks in the Oval Office.

“Ours is truly a global partnership. For that, Mr Prime Minister Kishida, I thank you,” Biden said. “Now our two countries are building a stronger defence partnership and a strong Indo-Pacific than ever before.”

Kishida, speaking after Biden, said the cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin near the White House are a “symbol of the friendship between Japan and the United States”. “As a global partner, Japan will join hands with our American friends and together we will lead the way in tackling the challenges of the Indo-Pacific and the world,” he said.

Biden also said that US will keep improving its lines of communication with China. “Have previously spoken with Xi [Jinping] and agreed to have personal contact to ensure nothing slips between cup and lip and to know what the other team is thinking. Alliance with Japan is defensive in nature. Things we discuss today improve our cooperation, isn’t aimed at any one nation. This is about restoring stability on the region.”

Kishida added by saying that Japan continues to call on China to fulfil its responsibilities as a major power.

On Wednesday night, Biden will host a state dinner for Kishida, who will also address a joint session of the US Congress on Thursday.

Laying out the context for the visit on Tuesday, a senior administration official offered an overview of the changes in Japan under Kishida in recent years. These include Japan increasing its military spending from one to two per cent of its GDP, acquiring counterstrike capability, lifting the cap on defence technology export, participating in a trilateral with the US and South Korea, and robustly opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This has provided the basis for the reset in ties.

The US, the official said, will “change the force structure” that it has in Japan to be able to “integrate our forces”. The US and Japan will also have a military industrial council to evaluate where they can co-produce weapons and Japan will collaborate on pillar two of Aukus. The official added that US and Japan are also deepening ties on space and AI.

Asked how much of the elevation in ties was driven by concerns about a possible return of Donald Trump to White House, Biden administration officials acknowledged that there were anxieties in capitals about the future of US foreign policy.

A second administration official said, “I think some countries have sought to lie low. Others recognise that the best approach is to double down and engage deeply with the United States. And we’re seeking to do that.”

The first official quoted above also said that China’s “strategic objective” was to isolate Philippines, “what they’re doing on the coast guard”, or Japan, “what they’re doing with the embargo on fish”.

“The idea of switching to a multilateral lattice-like strategic architecture is then to flip the script and isolate China. When you have, like we did this week, the United States, Japan, Australia, and the Philippines doing an exercise together, when you have the trilat on Thursday, the country that’s isolated is China, not the Philippines.”

He added that “in every practice” that the US is doing, the end result was that script of China’s attempt to “intimidate one country, make an example of that country and intimidate the others in the neighbourhood”, was flipped and China was “isolated” and “the outlier in the neighbourhood”.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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