US, Japan Announce Big Upgrade in Alliance to ‘Isolate China’

Washington and Tokyo are doubling down on countering China. President Joe Biden announced a historic upgrade of the U.S.–Japan alliance Wednesday. This comes as Beijing’s growing military might worries its neighbors in the Indo-Pacific region.

WASHINGTON—President Joe Biden welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the White House on April 10 for a bilateral summit, describing the outcome as “the most significant upgrade” in the alliance since its inception.

“The alliance between Japan and the United States is the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world. Ours is truly a global partnership,” President Biden said as he welcomed Mr. Kishida and his wife during an official ceremony.

“Now, our two countries are building a stronger defense partnership and a stronger Indo-Pacific than ever before.”

The president and prime minister have met more than a dozen times in various capacities. However, the White House billed this most recent summit between the two leaders as the most ambitious yet, with 70 deliverables, the highest number set for a meeting of this nature.

The leaders agreed to deepen the ties on a wide range of topics including defense and security, space, economic security, global diplomacy, and climate change, with the goal of countering China.

Following an official arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, the leaders held a bilateral meeting followed by a joint news conference.

“We’re modernizing command and control structures, and we’re increasing the interoperability and planning of our militaries so that they can work together in a seamless and effective way,” President Biden told reporters.

For the first time, the United States will change its force structure in Japan to maximize joint operations in terms of capacity, capability, and integrated performance, according to the White House. The United States will also establish a military-industrial council to evaluate where co-production of defense weapons is possible.

Japan’s industrial capacity and strength, which has been on the sidelines since the end of World War II, will finally be unleashed in a bilateral alliance that will help cover what the United States sees as a strategic weak point in terms of its bandwidth for defense production capacity.

President Biden confirmed that Japan and the United States would work with Australia to create a network system of air missile and defense architecture, as well as conduct a trilateral military exercise with the UK.

He said that the United States and its AUKUS partners were “exploring” how Japan could join their work “in a second pillar, which focuses on advanced capabilities including AI, autonomous systems.” However, no confirmed path to full partnership has been made.

Mr. Kishida and his wife were welcomed with an official ceremony on the South Lawn, which featured several U.S. and Japanese dignitaries, military bands, and rows of U.S. and Japanese flags.

The prime minister will remain in Washington to partake in a trilateral summit with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on April 11.

With this first-ever trilateral meeting of the three leaders, the White House said the United States seeks to ensure “a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

Mr. Marcos’ visit to Washington and the trilateral summit come at a time when Beijing is increasing its pressure on the Philippines in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. The three leaders will discuss the increase in the Chinese regime’s provocative actions in the region.

‘Flip the Script and Isolate China’

During a call with reporters on April 9, senior administration officials criticized China’s approach and strategic goal of isolating the Philippines and Japan as regional tensions grow.

“The idea of switching to a multilateral lattice-like architecture is to flip the script and isolate China,” one official said.

Another senior administration official said that Japan’s development is seen as “fundamental validation” of President Biden’s strategy to elevate the role of partners and allies to secure an open Indo-Pacific.

“We confirmed that the United States and Japan will resolutely defend and bolster a free and open international order based on the rule of law and that Japan and the United States as global partners shall work together for that purpose,” Mr. Kishida said at the joint news conference.

However, President Biden made clear that the upgraded alliance with Japan was “defensive in nature,” and “purely about defense and readiness.”

“It’s not aimed at any one nation or threat to the region. And it doesn’t have anything to do with conflict,” the president said.

Mr. Kishida said that Japan would continue to maintain dialogue with China and cooperate in tackling common challenges, and that both he and President Biden saw the importance of maintaining that dialogue. The prime minister also said he trusts the United States “to continue to call on China to fulfill its responsibilities as a major power.”

NTD Photo
U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcome Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his wife, Yuko Kishida, to the White House on April 10, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

On April 7, Japan and the United States joined the Philippines and Australia in a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea.

U.S. officials noted that over the past three years, Japan has evolved from what the United States saw as an important regional ally into one of the United States’ most important global allies. They praised the island nation’s efforts to go through the necessary evolution.

Those efforts include changing policies that have been in effect for 70 years, such as raising its defense spending from 1 percent to 2 percent of GDP (putting it on the path to becoming the third largest military spender in the world), acquiring counter-strike capabilities, lifting its cap on defense technology exports, and embracing the United States’ relationship with the Republic of Korea. Japan’s relations with Russia have also deteriorated since Japan backed Kyiv at the start of the war in Ukraine.

“Everywhere that American purpose is being put to the test, Japan is by our side,” a senior administration official said.

During the news conference, both leaders affirmed their continued alignment on several international issues, such as Russia’s war in Ukraine, the need for a ceasefire in Gaza and a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, and the possibility of global nuclear disarmament in the future.

President Biden also said that the United States welcomed Japan and its other allies to initiate dialogue with North Korea.

However, the senior administration officials noted that the partnership between the United States and Japan goes beyond military might. Both sides continue to work on strengthening ties in technology, exploration, and commercial investment.

President Biden touted Japan’s place as the top foreign investor in the United States, with nearly 1 million Americans working for Japanese companies, and that the United States is the top foreign investor in Japan.

Japan continues to be one of the United States’ strongest partners in space exploration, with five separate space agreements already signed through NASA and JAXA, including the International Space Station. During the news conference, the two leaders confirmed that the first non-American to set foot on the moon will be a Japanese astronaut, who will be taking one of the two seats secured on the upcoming Artemis moon missions.

NTD Photo
U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (L) at the White House on April 10, 2024. (Kevin Lamarque/AFP via Getty Images)

Greater academic ties were also announced. For example, at the collegiate level, Carnegie Mellon University and Keio University in Tokyo will engage in joint AI research, funded by several Japanese companies and Microsoft. There will also be $12 million in scholarships announced to fund the transpacific exchange of junior high and high school students from both countries.

The prime minister confirmed the intention to promote people-to-people exchanges, but neither leader spoke in-depth on these programs.

NTD Photo
U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida take part in an Official Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on April 10, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

As its first term nears its end, the Biden administration reaches this milestone with the looming possibility of former President Donald Trump’s reelection in November. Nevertheless, administration officials seem confident that the new partnership with Japan will not require another four years under President Biden to become established.

Strengthening bilateral and multilateral relationships with countries willing to lend a hand creates a momentum of its own, they said. Some approaches withstand the test of time, and although the investment carries some risk, nations such as Japan trust the United States as “the right kind of counterweight” to an “untethered China.”

From The Epoch Times

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