President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday used their first formal meeting to discuss concerns about China’s growing military assertiveness that’s spurring increasing disquiet in the Pacific.
The two leaders discussed ongoing efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic and the brewing crisis in eastern Europe, where Russia has massed some 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine. Biden earlier this week said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to order a further invasion of Ukrainian territory but he did not think Putin wanted an all-out war.
Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, on which the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb at the end of the World War II, also said he raised to Biden concerns about nuclear security and the idea of achieving “a world without nuclear weapons.”
Biden and top aides have sought to rally the support of NATO partners and other allies to respond with harsh sanctions against Russia if it moves forward with military action.
Kishida said that the two leaders spent a “significant amount” of their 80-minute call on issues surrounding China, including shared concerns about China’s increasing aggression toward Taiwan. China claims self-governing Taiwan as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary. In recent months, China has stepped up military exercises near Taiwan, frequently sending warplanes near the island’s airspace.
Biden and Kishida also discussed the situations in Hong Kong and China’s Xinjiang province. Biden has repeatedly called out Beijing over its crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong and forced labor practices targeting China’s Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
“President Biden and I were able to exchange views frankly, in a very calm and quiet manner, about how Japan and the United States together cooperate and lead the international society, which I believe will lead to further strengthening of the Japan-U.S. alliance,” Kishida said after the meeting.
Japan remains concerned about China intentions in the South China Sea, where it has stepped up its military presence in recent years, and the East China Sea, where there is a long-running dispute about a group of uninhabited islets administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.
Kishida said after the meeting that he expressed his determination to drastically strengthen Japan’s defense power while Biden spoke of the U.S. commitment to abiding by the 1960 Japan-U.S. security treaty and made it clear it covers the Japanese-controlled disputed islands of Senkaku, which China refers to as Diaoyu.
Later, Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiji Kihara said Kishida explained his commitment to strengthening Japan’s military capability, saying that the prime minister would consider “all options including acquiring preemptive strike capability.”
The virtual meeting came as North Korea earlier this week suggested it might resume nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been paused for more than three years.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on Thursday presided over a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party at which officials set policy goals for “immediately bolstering” military capabilities to counter what were described as the Americans’ “hostile moves,” according to the Korean Central News Agency.