Biden and Japan’s Suga project unity against China’s assertiveness
President Joe Biden on Friday sought to present a united front with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to counter an increasingly assertive China as the U.S. leader held his first face-to-face White House summit since taking office.
The talks offered the Democratic president, inaugurated in January, a chance to work further on his pledge to revitalize U.S. alliances that frayed under his Republican predecessor Donald Trump
China topped the agenda, underscoring Japan’s central role in U.S. efforts to face down Beijing.
The two leaders addressed an array of geopolitical issues in a joint statement, including “the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait,” a slap at Beijing’s increased military pressure on the Chinese-claimed, self-ruled island.
“Today Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for the U.S.-Japanese alliance and for our shared security,” Biden told a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden, calling the discussions “productive.” “We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China and on issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as North Korea, to ensure a future of a free and open Indo Pacific.”
Other pressing concerns at the talks included China’s increased military movements near Taiwan, its tightening grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Suga said he and Biden agreed on the necessity of frank discussions with China in the context of Beijing’s activities in the Indo-Pacific region.
In a strongly-worded statement on Saturday, China’s embassy in Washington said Beijing was “resolutely opposed” to the joint statement, and that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang were China’s internal affairs.
The remarks have “completely gone beyond the scope of the normal development of bilateral relations”, harming the interests of third parties as well as peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, the embassy said.
The move was an attempt to split the region that “will inevitably proceed with the purpose of harming others and end in harming themselves”, it added.
The summit – Biden’s first in-person meeting with a foreign leader as president – came just days after China sent 25 aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, near Taiwan, which Beijing considers a wayward province.
“I refrain from mentioning details, since it pertains to diplomatic exchanges, but there is already an agreed recognition over the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait between Japan and the United States, which was reaffirmed on this occasion,” Suga said.
The joint leaders’ statement included the first reference to Taiwan since 1969, before Tokyo normalized ties with Beijing, using similar phrasing by the foreign and defense ministers of both countries after a meeting last month.
Attention had been focused on the wording on Taiwan and other sensitive issues, given caution in Tokyo about the need to balance its security concerns with Japan’s deep economic ties with China.
Taiwan’s government welcomed the show of support, and called on China to act responsibly.
“We hope the Beijing authorities will fulfill their responsibilities as part of the Taiwan Strait and region and jointly make positive contributions to stability and well being,” presidential office spokesman Xavier Chang said in a statement.
In another swipe at China, Biden told the news conference the United States and Japan will invest together in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, genomics and semiconductor supply chains.
The joint statement said the United States had committed $2.5 billion and Japan $2 billion to strengthen digital competitiveness including in 5G and beyond 5G networks.
“Japan and the United States are both deeply invested in innovation and looking to the future,” Biden said. “That includes making sure we invest in and protect technologies that will maintain and sharpen our competitive edge.”
Speaking later to a Washington think tank, Suga said Japan would say what is needed to be said to China and speak up on human rights, while also stressing the need to establish a stable, constructive relationship with Beijing.
The leaders’ statement said they “share serious concerns” about the human rights situation in Hong Kong and China’s Xinjiang region, where Washington has said Beijing is perpetrating a genocide against Muslim Uighurs. China has denied abuses.-PUNA