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Biden and Japanese P.M. Kishida discuss threats from China, North Korea

Biden accepted an invitation from Kishida to visit Japan in the spring, a senior administration official said.
Image: President Biden Meets With His Council Of Advisors On Science And Technology
President Biden at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 20, 2022.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden met virtually with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday to discuss China's military posture, North Korea's nuclear program and other common threats, including Covid, the climate crisis and cybersecurity.

The two leaders discussed concerns about China’s aggression toward Taiwan, the White House said, including stepped up military exercises near the self-governing island, which Beijing views as a wayward province.

Kishida said they spent a “significant amount” of their 80-minute call on China-related issues, including Taiwan. They 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 also 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.

Ahead of the meeting, Japanese officials said Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, was eager to talk about a “world without nuclear weapons” during the summit. The White House said that Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and his Japanese counterpart, Akiba Takeo, discussed North Korea, which suggested Thursday that it would resume testing of nuclear explosives and long-range missiles.

The leaders on Friday condemned North Korea's recent ballistic missile launches, which are in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, and committed to close coordination, along with South Korea, on Pyongyang's actions, the White House said.

During the meeting, Biden and Kishida discussed the past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea, and Biden expressed support for immediately resolving the issue, the White House said.

Asked whether Japan would join in sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine, Kishida indicated that the U.S. and Japan are closely aligned on Russian threats, a senior administration official said.

Kishida invited Biden and his wife, first lady Jill Biden, for an official visit to Japan in the spring, and Biden accepted that invitation, the senior administration official said. Details still need to be worked out and the trip would also depend on the status of Covid, the official said.

After the meeting, the White House said that Biden and Kishida "committed to work closely together to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine, and Prime Minister Kishida pledged to continue close coordination with the United States, other Allies and partners, and the international community on taking strong action in response to any attack."

Biden also reaffirmed his plan to host the next Covid summit in the first quarter of the year, the White House said.

A number of U.S. officials attended the virtual conversation, including U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emmanuel, who also served as former President Barack Obama's White House chief of staff.

Kishida's chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, previewed the virtual discussion in a briefing earlier in the week.

“Japan hopes the first virtual meeting in 2022 between the two leaders will serve as an occasion to show the world the unwavering bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance as well as an opportunity to take the alliance to a higher level,” he said.

In a speech earlier this week, Kishida said that he hopes to build a relationship of trust with Biden and to work with the U.S. toward a nuclear-free world, and also raised the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea and his intention to collaborate with Biden on the issue.