Biden Commends Japan’s Defense Upgrade as Premier Warns on China

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden praised Japan’s unprecedented defense overhaul, while Prime Minister Fumio Kishida underscored “unacceptable” aspects of China’s world view following a summit between the two allies in Washington.

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“President Biden commended Japan’s bold leadership in fundamentally reinforcing its defense capabilities and strengthening diplomatic efforts,” the two governments said in a statement. The need for such steps stemmed from “actions inconsistent with the rules-based international order by China” and “provocations by North Korea,” the two leaders added.

Japan’s defense buildup calls for a 60% increase in spending over five years and the acquisition of missiles capable of striking neighboring countries including China.

Kishida sought — and received — a public reaffirmation from Biden that their nations’ security policies are aligned after criticism from China, which Japan describes as an “unprecedented” challenge in new strategy documents issued last month.

Biden and Kishida also reaffirmed the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait and said they would work together on protection and promotion of critical technologies including semiconductors, without giving details.

After the White House visit, Kishida expanded on his views in a speech at the

. “China’s vision and claims about the world order have differences from ours,” he said. “There are aspects that we absolutely cannot accept.”

Kishida said China must be induced to uphold the international order. Still, he said, he would seek peace and cooperation in areas of common interest.

The prime minister also visited the headquarters of NASA, the US space agency, to witness the signing of an agreement to expand US-Japan cooperation in space.

The US rolled out sweeping measures in October to limit the sale of advanced semiconductors and chip-making equipment to China, which the Biden administration said are intended to limit the Chinese military’s access to — and development of — advanced technology.

The premier’s visit marks the culmination of a whirlwind tour that has taken him to most of the Group of Seven countries to prepare for Japan’s hosting of the body’s summit in May. He sought to bolster security ties with each of the countries he visited.

Uneasy Neighbors

Last month’s radical upgrade of Japan’s security policy has raised hackles in some parts of Asia, where memories of its 20th century aggression linger.

President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, another key US ally, questioned Wednesday how Japan’s defense overhaul was compatible with its pacifist constitution, the Yonhap News Agency reported. He acknowledged the move would be hard to stop, given North Korea’s frequent firing of missiles, including over Japanese territory.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin declined to comment on the Biden-Kishida meeting before it happened, but denounced a joint statement signed by US and Japanese ministers earlier in the week as “full of groundless smears against China.”

“While claiming to promote regional peace and stability, the US and Japan are in fact finding pretext for their military buildup,” Wang told a regular news briefing Friday in Beijing.

North Korea, which has fired scores of missiles close to Japan over the past year, last month accused Kishida of seeking to turn his country into an “offensive military giant.” Japan’s planned defense spending increases could rank its military budget third globally, behind only the US and China, compared with ninth now.

Appearing with Biden may also help bolster Kishida’s support at home, which has been sagging over a series of scandals.

His visit comes shortly before a new parliamentary session in Japan, at which opposition parties have vowed to grill the government over how they plan to pay for the defense expansion, setting the stage for months of wrangling.

Polls show most voters in the heavily indebted country are in favor of expanding the defense budget, but are opposed to the idea of a tax increase to help cover the costs.

--With assistance from Lucille Liu and Courtney McBride.

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