US, Japan vow to work together on security

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has held a virtual meeting with US President Joe Biden.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has held a virtual meeting with US President Joe Biden.

US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have agreed in a virtual meeting to boost co-operation on pressing economic and security issues including China, North Korea and Ukraine.

The online meeting, the first substantial talks since Kishida became Japan's prime minister in October, followed "two-plus-two" discussions this month at which defence and foreign ministers from the longtime allies voiced strong concern about China's growing might and vowed to respond if necessary to destabilising activity in the Pacific.

Kishida said he and Biden had agreed to co-operate to keep the region free and open, to work closely on China and the North Korean missile issue and also to co-operate on Ukraine.

He also said Japan would host a meeting of the Quad grouping of the United States, Japan, Australia and India in the first half of this year with Biden visiting.

Biden accepted the invitation and indicated his intention to visit in the northern hemisphere's late spring, a senior US official told reporters.

Kishida said he and Biden also agreed to set up an economic version of a "two plus two" meeting at the ministerial level to promote Japan-US economic co-operation.

"We agreed to work together to advance cooperation among like-minded countries to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific," Kishida told reporters.

"We agreed to closely co-operate on China-related issues, including the East and South China Seas, Hong Kong, and the Xinjiang Uighur (Autonomous Region), as well as North Korea's nuclear and missile issues."

Kishida said he and Biden would work closely to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine and "keep close contact with other allies and partners and continue communicating on the point that any attack will be met with strong action".

In a tweet, Biden said it was "an honor to meet with Prime Minister Kishida to further strengthen the US-Japan Alliance - the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the world".

A White House statement said Biden had welcomed Kishida's decision to increase defense spending and "underscored the importance of sustaining these vital investments over time".

It said the two also stressed the importance of strengthening cybersecurity and resolved "to push back" against China's attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas.

The US official said US-Japan solidarity was on "full display" in the virtual session of about 90 minutes.

The two had a "very in-depth discussion" on China, sharing concerns about its intimidation of neighbours and "predatory" steps in trade and other realms, he said, adding that Kishida was particularly concerned about China's nuclear build-up.

The US official said Biden and Kishida had had a "robust" discussion on the need for the US to play an active role in trade and commercial architecture in Asia.

Messaging on China becomes all the more important as Biden and Kishida both face elections this year, for Japan's upper house of parliament in July and the US midterm congressional elections in November.

Australian Associated Press