Kishida, Biden agree to strengthen alliance in first in-person talks
GLASGOW, Scotland – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden agreed in their first in-person talks on Tuesday to strengthen the bilateral alliance and cooperate closely for a free and open Indo-Pacific amid the assertion of China in the region.
Kishida has also agreed to forge closer ties with his British, Australian and Vietnamese counterparts on the sidelines of the UN climate summit. Tokyo sees the three countries as key partners in advancing a free and open region.
The wave of diplomatic activity took place during Kishida’s brief first overseas trip as a Japanese leader. He left after Sunday’s general election in which his ruling coalition won a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives.
After arriving in the Scottish city of Glasgow earlier on Tuesday, Kishida had a brief conversation with Biden, according to the Japanese Foreign Office.
The two men agreed to continue to jointly address climate change issues as well as regional issues, apparently aware of the challenges and threats posed by the nuclear and missile programs of China and North Korea.
Kishida told reporters later today that he agreed with Biden to meet again as soon as possible, which could be later this year, to have more “in-depth” discussions.
The longtime former foreign minister has already had phone conversations with Biden after being elected prime minister by parliament last month, but this was the first time the two had met in person as they occupied their current positions.
Kishida, meanwhile, affirmed with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson their cooperation in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and agreed to speed up talks for an agreement to improve legal and other procedures. in order to facilitate joint exercises between their defense forces.
Negotiations for a reciprocal access deal come as Britain steps up its engagement in the region, in part propelled by Beijing’s undermining of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong, a former British colony.
As members of the Quad Group which also involves the United States and India, Kishida and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed on the importance of bilateral and quadrilateral relations in the pursuit of a free and open region.
During talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Kishida expressed strong opposition to unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas.
China has conflicting territorial claims with four members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – as well as with Taiwan in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which passes more than a third of world trade.
Beijing also claims the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea administered by Japan. China has frequently sent its coastguard ships near the islet chain, which it calls Diaoyu.
Kishida and her Vietnamese counterpart agreed to cooperate on supply chain issues, as many Japanese companies have production bases and other businesses in the Southeast Asian country, and to step up talks to promote Japanese defense exports, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.