Japan’s Kishida warns world of ‘historic turning point’ as touts alliance with US ahead of Biden summit

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By journalsofus.com



Tokyo
cnn

Rising geopolitical tensions have brought the world to a “historic turning point” and are forcing Japan change its defense posture, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told CNN on Sunday before a meeting. closely watched summit with US President Joe Biden next week.

“As we witness Russian aggression in Ukraine, the continuing situation in the Middle East, as well as the situation in East Asia, we are facing a historic turning point,” Kishida said during an interview at his private residence in Tokyo. .

“That is why Japan has made the decision to fundamentally strengthen its defense capabilities and we have greatly changed Japan’s security policy on these fronts,” he said.

In the face of growing security challenges, the prime minister stressed, the Japan-US alliance is becoming “increasingly important,” a vision he hoped would gain bipartisan support in Washington.

Kishida made the remarks days before his Wednesday meeting with Biden in Washington, where he will also address a joint session of Congress and participate in the first trilateral summit between Japan, the United States and the Philippines.

Washington has characterized the Kishida-Biden summit as a historic opportunity for the two countries to modernize their alliance as they both eye regional threats from North Korea’s weapons tests and burgeoning relations with Russia until China’s aggression in the South China Sea and towards Taiwan.

The partnership with Japan has long been central to US strategy in the Indo-Pacific, but the defense relationship has expanded under Kishida, who has raised Japan’s profile in global and regional security.

Since taking office in 2021, the prime minister has overseen a radical shift in Tokyo’s defense posture, moving away from the pacifist constitution imposed on it by the United States after World War II, toward increase defense spending to around 2% of its GDP by 2027 and acquire counterattack capabilities.

That move is not without controversy, especially in China and other parts of Asia that suffered greatly under World War II-era Japanese militarism.

When asked about that change, Kishida pointed to the “severe and complex” security environment surrounding his East Asian nation, the world’s fourth-largest economy.

“In our neighborhood there are countries that are developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, and others that are increasing their defense capabilities in an opaque way. Furthermore, there is a unilateral attempt to change the status quo, by force, in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” he said, in apparent reference to Chinese maritime aggression related to territorial disputes with both the Philippines and Japan.

Developing Japan’s deterrence and response capabilities is also “essential” to the alliance with the United States, he argued.

“I hope the United States understands this and that we can work together to improve peace and stability in the region. “I think it is important to show the rest of the world that the United States and Japan will further evolve our collaboration through my visit,” Kishida said.

Next week’s events will also be a platform to deepen expansion between Japan and another key US regional partner and mutual defense treaty ally, the Philippines.

It arrives less than a year after a innovative meeting between the United States, Japan and South Korea, and both summits underscored Japan’s centrality to the US security strategy in the Indo-Pacific and the push to increase coordination with allies and partners amid rising regional tensions.

Kishida’s visit to Biden next week also comes as both leaders face uncertain circumstances in their countries.

Japan’s prime minister is grappling with dismal approval ratings, largely in the wake of scandals involving his party, and the looming U.S. election raises the possibility of a policy shift if former President Donald Trump returns to the White House next year.

Both during his administration and in more recent years, Trump has repeatedly pour cold water on Washington’s defense and security treaties, something that has worried allies in both Asia and Europe.

Kishida declined to comment on whether he was worried about the former president’s return. Instead, he expressed his belief that the importance of the US-Japan alliance was widely recognized “regardless of party affiliation.”

“The relationship between Japan and the United States has become stronger than ever…Regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, I think it is important to make sure that the American people recognize the importance of the relationship between Japan and the United States,” he said . .

Since taking office, Kishida has also positioned Japan as a partner of the United States not only in Asia, but more globally.

It has championed the view that security in Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inextricably linked, while emerging as a strong supporter of Ukraine and aligning closely with G7 countries on its position on Russia.

Those ties have been close for Japan, as the Russian and Chinese militaries conduct joint drills in the region and North Korea has now been accused by G7 nations of supplying weapons to Moscow for use in its war in Ukraine, raising global concerns about an emerging axis between the three countries that have tense relations with the United States.

Kishida also noted that his government was making “high-level approaches” to secure a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to resolve “outstanding issues” and promote stable relations between the two countries.

Japan, along with South Korea, is on the front line of North Korea’s aggressive weapons testing program, and its test missiles periodically fall into regional waters. The problem of Kidnapped Japanese citizens by North Korea more than decades ago also remains a particularly emotional point of contention.

Kishida said his government was monitoring equipment exchanges between Pyongyang and Moscow and pointed to joint Chinese and Russian military exercises, describing such cooperation as “worrying, with respect to international order and stability.”

“At the same time, it is important to convey a strong message to North Korea and China that it is important for the peace, stability and prosperity of the international community to maintain a free and open international order based on the rule of law. Kishida said.

“We must also cooperate with them to promote a strong international community, not one of division and confrontation,” he added. “I believe it is important to cooperate with the United States and our allies to create an atmosphere of cooperation, not division and confrontation, to move the international community forward.”

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