Biden, Japan’s Kishida expected to meet in Washington as soon as Jan 13: Report

US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are expected to meet in Washington as soon as Jan 13, a person engaged in the preparations told Reuters on Tuesday (Jan 3).

The meeting between Washington and its key Asian partner in standing up to China’s increasing might comes as North Korea’s missile tests and calls for a larger nuclear arsenal worry US allies in the region.

Kishida plans to discuss Tokyo’s new security policy, which saw the unveiling in December of Japan’s biggest military build-up since World War II, Japan’s Yomiuri daily newspaper reported last week, citing multiple unidentified Japanese government sources.

The White House declined to comment on any plans for the meeting, which it has not announced. Japan’s embassy also declined to confirm dates.

On a visit to Japan in May, Biden applauded Kishida’s determination to strengthen Japanese defence capabilities.

Japan’s US$320 billion defence plan includes the purchase of missiles capable of striking China and readying the country for sustained conflict, amid concerns that Russia’s Ukraine invasion could embolden China to move against self-ruled Taiwan, a neighbour of Japan.

Japan hosts the Group of 7 nations this year, including a leaders’ summit in May in Hiroshima that Biden plans to attend. The club, which also includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Canada, has been a focus of Biden’s efforts to revitalise US alliances to counter threats from China to Russia and beyond.

Japan also took up a two-year term on the UN Security Council on Jan 1 and holds the rotating monthly presidency of the 15-member body for January.

Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi told a Reuters NEXT conference last month Japan will use G7 and UN leadership roles to pressure Russia to halt its war in Ukraine.

Christopher Johnstone, head of the Japan program at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said Kishida’s visit would reinforce Japan’s stature as America’s most critical ally in the Indo-Pacific.

He said Kishida would seek Biden’s endorsement of his national security and defence strategies, and in particular support for its acquisition of counterstrike capabilities.

“Japan’s defence strategy calls for the introduction of US-made Tomahawk cruise missiles in the near term, but does not specify a timeline. Kishida will look for the president’s support to move quickly,” he said.

“They will also focus heavily on ‘economic security’ issues related to China, including cooperation on export controls for sensitive technologies like semiconductors”.

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