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Biden will seek support from Japanese PM Kishida Fumio on Ukraine

President Joe Biden sought support from Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio for a common response if Russia attacks the Ukraine as the two leaders held their first formal talks on Friday morning.

The two men will ‘discuss a strong, united response that would result from further Russian aggression towards Ukraine,’ a senior administration official said in previewing the conversation.

The virtual conversation lasted nearly 90 minutes, according to the White House. Biden, who spoke to Kishida from the White House Situation Room, was joined by U.S. Ambassdor to Japan Rahm Emanuel, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

‘It was an honor to meet with Prime Minister Kishida to further strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance — the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,’ Biden tweeting, including a photo of the meeting, which was closed to the press.  

Biden said earlier this week he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to order a further invasion of Ukrainian territory and has been pressuring allies to join him in giving him a ‘strong economic’ response.

The senior administration official also said the leaders would discuss ‘common threats,’ signaling a discussion on China‘s military buildup and North Korea‘s recent nuclear weapons tests. 

The Japanese gave a similar indication of concern on China and North Korea.  

Biden and Kishida will ‘confirm the importance of a closer Japan-U.S. alliance and to deepen cooperation and efforts towards realizing a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ as well as a ‘world without nuclear weapons,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu said in the Japanese preview of the conversation.

The meeting between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio lasted nearly 90 minutes

President Joe Biden

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held their first formal talks in a video summit on Friday morning

North Korea earlier this week suggested it might resume nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been paused for more than three years. 

Pyongyang, which fired tactical guided missiles this week in its latest of a series of tests, warned it might rethink a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests. 

A native of Hiroshima, on which the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb at the end of the World War II, Kishida opposes the use of nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on Thursday presided over a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party where officials set policy goals for ‘immediately bolstering’ military capabilities to counter what were described as the Americans´ ‘hostile moves,’ according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Both the U.S. and Japan are also concerned about China’s increasing aggression toward Taiwan. 

China has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, which it claims as its own, to be annexed by force if necessary.

Messaging on China becomes all the more important as Biden and Kishida both face elections this year, for Japan’s upper house of parliament in July and U.S. midterm congressional elections in November. 

In recent months, China has stepped up military exercises near the island, frequently sending warplanes near Taiwan’s airspace.

Japan remains concerned about China intentions in the South China Sea, where it has stepped up its military presence in recent years, and the East China Sea, where there is a long-running dispute about a group of uninhabited islets administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

President Biden will ask Japan for support if Russia attacks the Ukraine - above a service member of the Ukrainian armed forces is seen at combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebel

President Biden will ask Japan for support if Russia attacks the Ukraine – above a service member of the Ukrainian armed forces is seen at combat positions near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebel

North Korea's Kim Jong Un on Thursday presided over a Politburo meeting after the country suggested it might resume nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been paused for more than three years

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on Thursday presided over a Politburo meeting after the country suggested it might resume nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been paused for more than three years

Both U.S. and Japan are also concerned about China aggression toward Taiwan - above Taiwanese military personnel demonstrate combat readiness

Both U.S. and Japan are also concerned about China aggression toward Taiwan – above Taiwanese military personnel demonstrate combat readiness

On Thursday, in preparation for the leaders’ call, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his Japanese counterpart, Takeo Akiba, held their own call to discuss North Korea, China and ‘the importance of solidarity in signaling to Moscow the strong, united response that would result from any attack’ on Ukraine, according to the White House.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also held virtual talks earlier this month with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, where China’s military maneuvering and North Korea’s nuclear program were discussed.

The White House has said the leaders also will discuss economic matters, the COVID pandemic, emerging technology, cybersecurity, climate change and other bilateral issues. 

Biden and Kishida have had brief exchanges but this is their first formal sit down: Biden was the first world leader to call Kishida when he was first elected prime minister last October and they spoke briefly on the sidelines of COP26 in Glasglow, Scotland. 

The Japanese had pushed for an in-person meeting – despite concerns about the rising cases of COVID due to the Omicron variant  – but agreed to hold the summit by video due to the ‘significance of having an early meeting to enable the leaders to deepen trust,’ Matsuno said this week.

Biden, who has sought to put greater focus on the Indo-Pacific amid China’s rise as a world power, had built a warm relationship with Japan’s last prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, and is hoping to build a similar rapport with Kishida. 

Biden has made restoring the importance of the US-Japanese relationship a priority since taking office exactly a year ago, following Donald Trump’s questioning of the benefit of US relationships with several major allies in both Asia and Europe.   


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