Biden and Japan’s Suga Unity project against China’s assertiveness
President Joe Biden on Friday attempted to form a united front with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to confront an increasingly assertive China as the US leader held his first personal summit at the White House since taking office.
The talks offered the Democratic president, who took office in January, the chance to continue working on his pledge to revitalize US alliances that had fallen apart under his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
China has been in the spotlight, highlighting Japan’s central role in US efforts to counter Beijing. The two leaders touched on a number of geopolitical issues in a joint statement, including “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” a slap in the face to Beijing’s growing military pressure on the Chinese-claimed self-governing island.
“Today, Prime Minister Suga and I reaffirmed our strong support for the US-Japan alliance and our common security,” Biden said at a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden, calling the discussions “productive.”
“We are committed to working together to address China’s problems and concerns, such as the East China Sea, South China Sea and North Korea, to ensure a free and open future for the Indo-Pacific region.”
Other pressing concerns during the talks included China’s intensification of military action near Taiwan, its increasingly tight control over Hong Kong, and its suppression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Suga said he and Biden agreed on the need for frank discussions with China in the context of Beijing’s activities in the Indo-Pacific.
In a blunt statement on Saturday, the Chinese embassy in Washington said Beijing was “strongly opposed” to the joint statement and that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang were China’s internal affairs.
The embassy said that these remarks “completely go beyond the normal development of bilateral relations,” damaging the interests of third parties, as well as peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
The move was an attempt to divide a region that “will inevitably continue with the goal of harming others and ultimately harming itself,” he added.
The summit – Biden’s first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader as president – came just days after China sent 25 aircraft, including fighters and nuclear bombers, near Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rebel province.
“I refrain from mentioning details as these are diplomatic exchanges, but there is already an agreed recognition of the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait between Japan and the United States, which was confirmed in this case,” said Suga.
The leaders’ joint statement included the first mention of Taiwan since 1969, before Tokyo normalized relations with Beijing, using similar expressions from the foreign and defense ministers of both countries after meeting last month.
Attention has focused on language on Taiwan and other sensitive issues, given Tokyo’s caution about balancing its security concerns with Japan’s deep economic ties with China.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden hold a joint press conference at the White House Rose Garden in Washington DC, USA, April 16, 2021. REUTERS / Tom Brenner
The Taiwan government welcomed the demonstration of support and urged China to act responsibly.
“We hope the Beijing authorities will fulfill their responsibilities within the Taiwan Strait and the region and together make a positive contribution to stability and prosperity,” President Xavier Chang’s press office said in a statement.
In another blow to China, Biden said at a press conference that the US and Japan would jointly invest in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, genomics, and semiconductor supply chains.
The joint statement says the US has pledged $ 2.5 billion and Japan $ 2 billion to improve digital competitiveness, including on 5G and beyond.
“Japan and the US are deeply investing in innovation and looking to the future,” Biden said. “This includes making sure we invest and protect technology that will sustain and enhance our competitive advantage.”
Speaking later at a Washington think tank, Suga said Japan will tell China what needs to be said and talk about human rights, also highlighting the need for a stable and constructive relationship with Beijing.
The leaders said in a statement that they “share grave concern” over the human rights situation in Hong Kong and China’s Xinjiang region, where Washington has said Beijing is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims. China denies abuse.
Japan has been criticized for failing to tackle alleged human rights violations for fear of backlash that could harm its companies doing business in China, its main trading partner.
At a press conference at the White House, Suga said that he told Biden that he intends to move forward with the Summer Olympics in Japan and that Biden has offered his support. Japan is grappling with the rise in coronavirus infections with less than 100 days left before the expected launch.
“I told the president about my determination to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer as a symbol of global unity,” said Suga.
When they sat down to talk, Biden, Suga and two of their delegations were wearing masks in accordance with protocols to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
Biden seemed determined to get on the right foot with Suga after four years, with Trump sometimes berating allies in Asia and elsewhere for what he saw as insufficient defense spending or funding a U.S. troop presence, and questioning the value of the basic military. unions.
With a meeting in Suga and another planned summit with South Korea in May, Biden hopes to spur joint efforts with Australia, India and Japan in a group known as Quad, as well as with South Korea, to counter China and long-standing United States actions. enemy of North Korea. …