Biden, Kishida vow to work closely on China, Ukraine

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Biden, Kishida vow to work closely on China, Ukraine

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a virtual meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan January 21, 2022, in this photo released by Japan's Cabinet Public Relations Office via Kyodo. Japan's Cabinet Public Relations Office via Kyodo via REUTERS Mandatory credit Kyodo via MANDATORY CREDIT. WASHINGTON TOKYO, January 21, Reuters - U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed on Friday to work together on pressing economic and security issues, including China, North Korea's missiles and Russia's threat to Ukraine.

Defense and foreign ministers from the longtime allies expressed strong concern about China's growing might and pledged to respond if necessary to destabilize activity in the Indo-Pacific after Kishida became Japan's prime minister in October. Kishida said he and Biden had agreed to cooperate to make a free and open Indo-Pacific, to work closely on China and the North Korean missile issue, and to cooperate on Ukraine.

In the first half of this year, he said that Japan would host a meeting of the Quad grouping of the United States, Japan, Australia and India.

Biden accepted the invitation and indicated his intention to visit in late spring, a senior U.S. administration official said, adding that one of the aims of the Quad meeting would be to review progress on a pledge to supply a billion COVID 19 vaccine dose to Southeast Asia by the end of 2022.

Kishida and Biden also agreed to set up an economic version of a two-plus-two ministerial to promote economic cooperation. The U.S. official said that they would focus on supply chains, technology investments, standards setting and export controls.

Kishida told reporters that they agreed to work together to advance cooperation among like-minded countries to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific. We agreed to cooperate closely on China-related issues, including the East and South China SeasChina Seas, Hong Kong, and the Xinjiang Uyghur 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, keep in touch with other allies and partners and keep communicating on the point that any attack will be met with strong action. In a tweet, Biden said it was an honor to meet Prime Minister Kishida to strengthen the U.S.-Japanese 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 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 SeasChina Seas.

The U.S. official told reporters that U.S.-Japanese solidarity was on full display in the virtual session of about 90 minutes.

He said that Kishida was particularly concerned about China's nuclear buildup and shared concerns about its intimidation of neighbors and predatory steps in trade and other areas, and that the two had a very in-depth discussion on China.

The White House said the leaders condemned North Korea's recent ballistic missile launches, and the U.S. official said Biden had made clear that Washington would work closely with Japan and South Korea to discourage potential provocations that might follow on. North Korea fired tactical guided missiles this week, in its latest of a series of launches, and warned on Thursday that it might reconsider a moratorium on nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile ICBM tests.

A U.S. official said Biden and Kishida had discussed the need for the United States to play an active role in trade and commercial architecture in Asia.

After Donald Trump left a regional trade framework, known as CPTPP in 2017, the Biden administration has been criticized for not having a solid economic pillar to its strategy for Asia, but it has been wary of returning to a pact that critics say threatens U.S. jobs.

A senior U.S. policy official for China said on Wednesday that Washington aims to establish common goals on economic cooperation with Indo-Pacific countries in early 2022.

The Chinese embassy in Japan issued a statement on Saturday, in which it said Biden and Kishida's video meeting made groundless attacks on China and grossly interfered in its internal affairs, adding that it had lodged stern representations.

We urge Japan and the United States to follow the trend of times, abandon the narrow policies of zero-sum game and beggar-thy neighbor, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and stop drawing small circles based on ideologies.

Friday's summit followed other security-related meetings involving Indo-Pacific leaders - two-plus-two talks between Japan and France on Thursday and between Australian and British foreign and defence ministers on Friday.

Biden hosted the first in-person summit of the Quad grouping last year, at which the leaders pledged to pursue a free and open Indo-Pacific unaunted by coercion. China has stepped up military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty over Taiwan, which it claims to be its own.

Kishida said this week Japan would beef up its defenses of islands near Taiwan, following a promise in October to revise its security strategy so as to consider all options, including possession of so-called enemy-strike capabilities.