Japan’s Prime Minister Suga Meets with US President Biden . . .
Japan’s Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide became the first foreign leader to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden last Friday. The meeting between the two leaders was hailed as a success in both countries. While the Americans are satisfied that Suga endorsed most U.S. policy points on China and reiterated the importance of their alliance to promote a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, the Japanese are pleased that the U.S. chose Suga for Biden’s first foreign-leader visit since he took office in January and places such high importance on its alliance with Japan.
Discussion details . . .
The leaders’ joint statement, “U.S.-Japan Global Partnership for a New Era,” highlighted bilateral unity. Both sides reiterated support for norms within the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, including freedom of navigation in contested waters such as in the South China Sea, where China claims territory not recognized under the UN convention. They also committed to further strengthening their security alliance in military, cyber, and space and confirmed that their security treaty also applies to the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands. The leaders also re-committed to moving a controversial military base in Okinawa from Futenma to Henoko. While security issues were front and centre, both sides also agreed to work together to recover from the pandemic, advancing human rights, and preserving peace in the Taiwan Strait.
Japan’s China policy . . .
While the U.S. sees Japan as an essential partner in Asia to counter an increasingly powerful and assertive China, it was important for Suga not to embrace Washington’s stance on China fully. Japan and China are neighbours, and commentators have highlighted that neither the Japanese business community nor the Japanese public wants Tokyo to take a confrontational posture toward Beijing, preferring it chart its own China strategy. And for Japan, bridging the two superpowers and preventing escalation or confrontation is a top priority.
- Al Jazeera: Biden, Suga commit to take on China’s challenges in the Pacific
- The Asahi Shimbun: Japan must not just follow U.S. lead in dealing with China
- The Wall Street Journal: Tokyo flexes its talons