Washington (AP) – President Joe Biden And Prime Minister Fumio Kishida They were poised for wide-ranging talks at the White House on Friday as Japan looks to build security cooperation with allies amid growing concerns about provocative Chinese and North Korean military action.
The two administrations were also poised to seal an agreement Friday to enhance US-Japanese cooperation in space with a signing ceremony for the secretary of state. Anthony Blinken and Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa.
Oval Office meeting and signing ceremony at NASA agency The headquarters in Washington will conclude a week-long tour for Kishida that has taken him to five European and North American capitals for talks on his efforts to boost security in Japan.
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It all comes as Japan announced plans last month for Increase defense spending to 2% of GDP within five years, a significant spending increase for a country that forged a pacifist approach to its defense after World War II. Japan’s defense spending has historically remained less than 1% of GDP.
“Japan is stepping up and doing this very closely with the United States,” said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
Blinken said earlier this week that the US-Japan Space Cooperation Framework was “a decade in the making” and “covers everything from joint research to working together to land the first woman and person of color on the moon.”
He added that the United States and Japan agree that China is the “biggest common strategic challenge” and stressed that any attack in space would lead to a joint defense clause in the US-Japanese security treaty.
Ahead of the two leaders’ meeting on Friday, US and Japanese officials Announce the adjustment of the presence of American forces on the island of Okinawa in part to enhance anti-ship capabilities that would be required in the event of a Chinese incursion into Taiwan or other hostilities in the region. Japan is also strengthening its defenses on its southwestern islands near Taiwan, including Yonaguni and Ishigaki, where new bases are being built.
Japan’s push to ramp up defense spending and coordination comes amid growing fears that China could take military action to seize Taiwan and concern that North Korea’s increase in missile tests could herald the isolated country’s nuclear ambitions.
Kishida told reporters before leaving Japan for his country, which includes five countries, that the talks with Biden “will be a valuable opportunity to confirm our close cooperation in further strengthening the Japan-US alliance and our joint pursuit of achieving freedom and openness of the Pacific.” a tour.
His sitting down with Biden is the last face-to-face in a week of talks with fellow G7 leaders that have largely focused on his efforts to increase Japan’s defense spending and urge the leaders to improve cooperation.
Kishida also discussed with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and French President Emmanuel Macron his hopes for improved security cooperation between Japan and their countries. Germany was the only G7 country not on Kishida’s itinerary.
Japan announced its plans last month To buy an American-made Tomahawk and other long-range cruise missiles that could strike targets in China or North Korea under a more offensive security strategy, while Japan, Britain and Italy have revealed plans to collaborate on a next-generation fighter project.
said Chris Johnston, a former National Security Council official in the Biden administration who is now president of Japan at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Those days are over.”
Biden administration officials have praised Japan for its escalation in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Japan was quick to join the United States and other Western allies in ratcheting up tough sanctions against Moscow, and Japanese automakers Mazda, Toyota and Nissan announced their withdrawal from Russia.
Biden administration officials have been pleasantly surprised by Japan’s extensive efforts to rethink its security.
A senior administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss negotiations with the Japanese, noted that the historic negotiations regarding the position of U.S. forces on Okinawa were “incredibly fraught, incredibly difficult and difficult” and often took years to complete. But the official said the negotiations ahead of this week’s meetings were completed with astonishing speed.
The official said Biden is expected to raise an issue Lieutenant Ridge Alconis, A US Navy officer deployed to Japan was imprisoned after pleading guilty last year to killing two Japanese nationals by negligent driving in May 2021.
Alkonis’ family says he suddenly passed out behind the wheel during a family trip on Mount Fuji. He swerved into parked cars and pedestrians in a parking lot, striking an elderly woman and her son-in-law, both of whom later died.
The Navy officer was sentenced to three years in prison in October, a sentence that the family and US lawmakers described as particularly harsh given the circumstances. Alkonis also agreed to pay the victims $1.65 million in restitution.
The official added that the administration is working “to find a compassionate solution that is consistent with the rule of law.”
Kishida was scheduled to meet Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday before his meeting with Biden.
___ Associated Press writers Tracy Brown in Washington and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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