WASHINGTON, Jan 13 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden told Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday that the United States remains firmly committed to its alliance with Japan and hailed Tokyo’s “historic” defense reforms.
Kishida is in Washington on the latest leg of a tour of G7 industrial powers and seeks to bolster longstanding alliances amid growing concern in Japan and the United States over growing regional security threats from China, North Korea and Russia.
During a meeting at the White House, Biden called it a “remarkable moment” in the U.S.-Japan alliance and said the two nations have never been closer.
“Let me be crystal clear: the United States is fully, totally, totally committed to the alliance and, most importantly, to the defense of Japan,” he said, all also thanking Kishida for his strong leadership in working closely on technology and economics. problems.
“We are modernizing our military alliances, building on Japan’s historic increase in defense spending and the new national security strategy,” Biden said.
Kishida thanked Biden for America’s work on regional security and said, “Japan and the United States currently face the most challenging and complex security environment in recent history.” He said Tokyo formulated its new defense strategy released last month “to ensure peace and prosperity in the region.”
He said the two countries shared the fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law “and the role we have to play becomes even more important.”
Kishida said he looked forward to a “frank” exchange of views on issues such as “a free and open Indo-Pacific” – language both sides use to describe efforts to push back against China – the G7, which Japan is currently presiding, and the currency climate.
DRAMATIC MILITARY CHANGE
Last month, Japan announced its biggest military build-up since World War II — a stark departure from seven decades of pacifism, fueled largely by concerns over Chinese actions in the region.
“Biden commended Japan’s bold leadership to fundamentally strengthen its defense capabilities and strengthen its diplomatic efforts,” according to a joint U.S.-Japan statement released after the meeting.
US and Japanese foreign and defense ministers met on Wednesday and announced increased security cooperation after nearly two years of talks and US officials welcomed Tokyo’s military build-up plans.
Japan’s military reform plan will see it double its defense spending to 2% of GDP and procure missiles capable of hitting ships or land targets 1,000 km (600 miles) away.
Biden and Kishida were to discuss security issues and the global economy and that their talks should include controlling semiconductor exports to China after Washington announced tough restrictions last year, a senior official said. American.
The joint statement says the United States and Japan will “strengthen our common advantage in economic security, including protecting and promoting critical and emerging technologies, including semiconductors.”
Kishida earlier met with Vice President Kamala Harris, who said U.S.-Japan relations were “ironclad” and the two sides would sign a space cooperation agreement later today.
In addition to chairing the G7, Japan took a two-year term on the UN Security Council on Jan. 1 and holds the monthly rotating presidency of the 15-member body for January.
Kishida said he supports Biden’s attempt to limit China’s access to advanced semiconductors with export restrictions. Yet he has not agreed to match the sweeping restrictions on exports of chipmaking equipment that the United States imposed in October.
The US official said Washington was working closely with Japan on the issue and believes they share a similar view even though their legal structures are different. He said the more countries and major players that support the controls, the more effective they will be.
A Japanese official said economic security, including semiconductors, was likely to be discussed, but no announcement was expected on that at the meeting.
Biden and Kishida pledged to “strengthen vital trilateral cooperation” between the United States, Japan and South Korea, the joint statement said, which follows North Korea’s decision to exponentially increase its nuclear force and to codify its right to a first strike.
Kishida’s visit follows Biden’s visit to Tokyo last May and a meeting between the two at a regional summit in Cambodia in November.
Reporting by Jeff Mason, Andrea Shalal, David Brunnstrom, Michael Martina and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Don Durfee, Alistair Bell and Grant McCool
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