WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday used their first official meeting to discuss concerns about China’s growing military assertiveness, which is causing growing unease in the Pacific.
Kishida said the two leaders spent a “significant portion” of their 80-minute conversation on China-related issues, including shared concerns about China’s mounting aggression on Taiwan. China declares self-governing Taiwan as its territory, which will be annexed by force if necessary.
In recent months, China has stepped up military exercises near the island, often sending warplanes into Taiwanese airspace.
Biden and Kishida also discussed the situation in Hong Kong and the Chinese province of Xinjiang. Biden has repeatedly called for Beijing’s crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong and forced labor practices against Chinese Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
“President Biden and I were able to frankly, very calmly and quietly exchange views on how Japan and the United States work together and lead the international community, which I believe will further strengthen the Japan-US alliance. Kishida said after the meeting.
Japan remains concerned about China’s intentions in the South China Sea, where it has increased its military presence in recent years, and in the East China Sea, where there is a longstanding dispute over a group of uninhabited islands administered by Tokyo but claimed by Japan. Beijing.
Kishida said after the meeting that he expressed his determination to drastically bolster Japan’s defense strength, while Biden spoke of the U.S. commitment to the 1960 Japan-US Security Treaty and made it clear that it extended to the Japanese-controlled disputed Senkaku Islands, which China is called the Diaoyu.
Later, Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said that Kishida explained his commitment to strengthening Japan’s military capability by stating that the prime minister would consider “all options, including acquiring a pre-emptive strike capability.”
The virtual meeting came after North Korea said earlier this week that it could resume nuclear and long-range missile testing, which had been suspended for more than three years.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un chaired a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Politburo on Thursday at which officials set political goals to “immediately strengthen” military capabilities to counter what has been called “hostile actions” by the Americans. News agency.
The two leaders discussed ongoing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and a brewing crisis in Eastern Europe, where Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. Biden said earlier this week that he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin would probably order further invasion of Ukraine, but he didn’t think Putin wanted an all-out war.
Kishida, from Hiroshima, on which the US dropped an atomic bomb at the end of World War II, also said he expressed to Biden concerns about nuclear safety and the idea of achieving a “world without nuclear weapons.”
Biden and his senior aides have sought to enlist the support of NATO partners and other allies to retaliate with tough sanctions against Russia if it launches hostilities.
On Thursday, in preparation for the leaders’ call, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Japanese counterpart Takeo Akiba held their own teleconference to discuss North Korea, China and “the importance of solidarity in signaling Moscow for a strong, united response.” any attack on Ukraine will lead to this,” the White House said.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also held virtual talks earlier this month with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Secretary Nobuo Kishi to discuss China’s military maneuvers and North Korea’s nuclear program.
Friday’s virtual meeting marked the first significant exchange of views between the leaders since Kishida took office in October. The leaders had a short chat on the sidelines of the climate summit in Glasgow in November. Biden was the first leader to call Kishida on the morning of his first full day.
Biden, who has been keen to put more focus on the Indo-Pacific amid China’s rise as a world power, has developed a cordial relationship with Japan’s last prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, and hopes to do the same with Kishida.
Kishida said he invited Biden to Japan in the first half of 2022 for a face-to-face meeting with Quad, a Pacific alliance that also includes Australia and India. The prime minister said Biden supported the idea.
Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.