The Dallas Morning News
Biden hosts Japan’s PM
Meeting meant to signal to China U.S.’S focus on region
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House on Friday, his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader and a clear signal to China about the shared commitment to strategic cooperation among the United States, Japan and other allies in Asia.
The two leaders, both just months in office, plan to issue statements supportive of Taiwan, a rebuke to China’s increasingly aggressive behavior toward the island nation it claims as its own — and to announce bilateral agreements to cooperate in developing 5G technology and combating climate change, according to a U.S. official who briefed reporters Thursday about the meeting.
“The signaling effect of this summit to all of Asia is really important because it shows the U.S. is serious about its strategy in Asia and that it starts with a strong U.s.-japan alliance,” said Nicholas Szechenyi, deputy director of the Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “The overall message that the summit will send is extremely profound.”
Suga, like his predecessor Shinzo Abe, who assiduously courted President Trump to maintain close U.s.-japan relations, is determined to keep America engaged in the region. Biden appears similarly invested in strengthening an alliance that is key to ramping up economic and political pressure on China, as well as deterring nucleararmed North Korea.
The U.S. president also is determined to successfully pull off the foreign policy initiative that President Barack Obama could not — to engineer a “pivot” from the Middle East, where the U.S. has been bogged down militarily for two decades, to pay more attention to the vital Indopacific region. Coincidentally, the meeting with Japan’s leader comes just days after Biden announced a final U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, a shift partly predicated on the desire to focus more on East and South Asia.
The White House also said this week that Biden would host another important regional ally, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, next month.
Even with their mutual interest in a strong bilateral relationship, Biden and Suga’s long-term diplomatic success is far from assured, given the challenges in the region and the difficulty of containing China, Japan’s largest trading partner.
Previewing the likely joint statement on Taiwan from Biden and Suga, the senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that “neither country is seeking to raise tensions or provoke China,” but that they shared a desire to communicate that incursions near Taiwan by Beijing are “antithetical to the mission of maintaining peace.”