US strongly committed to Japan defense: Biden

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 President Joe Biden told Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday the United States was “fully, thoroughly, completely” committed Japan’s defense and praised Tokyo’s security build up, saying the nations had never been closer.

Kishida is in Washington on the last stop in a tour of the G7 industrial powers and has been seeking to bolster long-standing alliances amid rising concern in Japan, and the United States, about mounting regional security threats from China, North Korea and Russia.

In a meeting at the White House, Biden called it a “remarkable moment” in the U.S.-Japan alliance. He said the two countries had never been closer.

“Let me be crystal clear: The United States is fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance, and importantly to the defense of Japan,” he said, while also thanking Kishida for strong leadership in working closely on technology and economic issues.

“We are modernizing our military alliances, building on Japan’s historic increase in defense spending, and new national security strategy,” Biden said.

Kishida thanked Biden for U.S. work on regional security and said: “Japan and the United States are currently facing the most challenging and complex security environment in recent history.” He said Tokyo had formulated its new defense strategy released last month “to ensure peace and prosperity in the region.”

He said the two countries shared fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law “and the role that we are to play is becoming even greater.”

Kishida said he looked forward to a “candid” exchange of views on issues including “a free and open Indo-Pacific” – language the two sides use to describe efforts to push back against China – the G7, which Japan’s currently chairs, and climate change.

In a later speech at Washington’s Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Kishida called China the “central challenge” for both Japan and the United States and said they and Europe must act in unison in dealing with the country.