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Japan White House: Joe Biden welcomes Prime Minister Kishida, praises Japan’s growing influence on the international stage

President Joe Biden praised Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for his bold leadership as he welcomed the Japanese leader to the White House on Wednesday to discuss the sensitive security situation in the Pacific and attend a lavish state dinner.

Kishida’s official visit completes the administration’s tribute to the leaders of the Quad, the informal partnership between the United States, Japan, Australia and India that the White House has focused on elevating since Biden took office. As administration officials put it, they saved the most fundamental relationship for last.

“The unbreakable alliance between Japan and the United States is the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,” Biden said as he welcomed Kishida at a pompous arrival ceremony on the South Lawn. from the White House.

The visit also marks an understanding of Japan’s transformation from a regional player to a global influencer: Senior Biden administration officials welcomed that there is little the United States does around the world that Tokyo does not support. They noted Japan’s eagerness to take a leading role in trying to bolster Ukraine against the Russian invasion and with the flow of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“Cooperation between our countries united by common values ​​and commitments has become global, with scope and depth covering outer space and the depths of the sea,” Kishida said. “Today the world faces more challenges and difficulties than ever before. Japan will join our American friends and together we will lead the way in addressing the challenges of the Indo-Pacific region and the world, while tirelessly developing the relationship.”

Kishida also announced that Japan will donate 250 cherry trees to the United States to commemorate the United States’ upcoming 250th birthday in 2026.

Biden and Kishida face difficult political headwinds on the home front as they try to navigate increasingly complicated problems on the global stage. Like Biden, Kishida has been dogged by low approval ratings for much of his tenure.

Kishida, meanwhile, is grappling with a Japanese economy that fell to the world’s fourth-largest after contracting in the final quarter of 2023 and falling behind Germany. Polls in Japan show that support for Kishida, who was elected in 2021, has plummeted as he grapples with a political funds corruption scandal within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“For President Biden, this is, of course, an opportunity to highlight and consolidate progress in the relationship, the most important bilateral alliance in the Indo-Pacific. It is an opportunity to maintain urgency and momentum in this relationship,” Christopher Johnstone said. former national security official in the Biden administration who is now president of Japan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For Kishida, it is a chance to show his ties to the United States and bolster support at home.”

There are differences in the relationship between the United States and Japan. The visit comes after Biden announced last month that he opposes the planned sale of Pittsburgh-based US Steel to Japan’s Nippon Steel. Biden argued in announcing his opposition that the United States needs to “keep strong American steel companies powered by American steelworkers.”

“It’s unprecedented,” explained David Robinson, an international trade attorney at Maynard Nexsen who serves as Japan’s Honorary Consul to North and South Carolina.

The Bidens invited Kishida and his wife to dinner Tuesday night, taking the couple to BlackSalt, a seafood restaurant in an upscale neighborhood of the nation’s capital.

The couples also exchanged gifts. The Bidens presented Kishida with a three-legged table handcrafted by a Japanese-American-owned company in Pennsylvania. The president also gifted Kishida a custom framed lithograph and a two-volume LP autographed by Billy Joel. Jill Biden presented Yuko Kishida with a soccer ball signed by the United States women’s national team and the Japanese women’s national team.

Kishida gave Biden Wajima-Nuri lacquered coffee mugs, as well as pens and Okinawan coffee beans. Yuko Kishida gifted Jill Biden a matching Takaoka copper necklace, bracelet, and earrings. Visitors gifted the Bidens with Nintendo items, including stuffed Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Yoshi.

The leaders were expected to announce plans to improve military relations between the United States and Japan, with both sides seeking closer cooperation amid concerns about North Korea’s nuclear program and China’s growing military assertiveness in the Pacific.

Kishida and Biden are also expected to confirm Japan’s participation in NASA’s Artemis lunar program, as well as its contribution of a lunar rover developed by Toyota Motor Corp. and the inclusion of a Japanese astronaut in the mission. Leaders are also expected to announce artificial intelligence and semiconductor initiatives, as well as new educational partnerships, according to administration officials.

Biden praised Japan for its significant increase in defense spending and has strengthened cooperation on economic and security issues throughout Kishida’s term.

Japan was quick to step forward following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, joining the United States and other Western allies in imposing aggressive sanctions on Moscow, and Japanese automakers Mazda, Toyota and Nissan announcing their withdrawal from Russia.

Tokyo has been one of the biggest donors to kyiv since the Russian invasion, and Japan has increased its defense spending amid concerns about China’s military assertiveness.

As part of its increased defense, Japan agreed to acquire U.S.-made Tomahawks and other long-range cruise missiles that can hit targets in China or North Korea under a more offensive security strategy. Japan, Britain and Italy also began collaboration on a next-generation jet fighter project.

“The prime minister is a visionary and courageous leader,” Biden said. “When Russia began its brutal invasion of Ukraine two years ago, it did not hesitate to condemn sanctions, isolate Russia and provide billions in aid to Ukraine.”

Biden also credited Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for working to repair frosty relations between Tokyo and Seoul. Relations have thawed rapidly over the past two years amid shared concerns about China’s assertiveness in the Pacific and persistent nuclear threats from North Korea. Last year, Biden hosted the two leaders at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

The relationship between Japan and South Korea is delicate due to differing opinions on the history of World War II and Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

Kishida will remain in Washington on Thursday to participate in a summit between the United States, Japan and the Philippines, where China’s increasing aggressive action in the region will loom large over the talks.

“The main objective of this trilateral agreement is that we can continue to prosper, that we can help each other and… maintain peace in the South China Sea and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea,” the president said. Filipino Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to reporters before leaving for Washington on Wednesday.


AP writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Michelle L. Price in Washington contributed to this story.

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