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Biden admin says Kishida State visit 'crowning partnership' for U.S. 

President Biden’s welcoming of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for a State visit this week is being packaged as the “crowning partnership” to the administration’s strategy of linking closer American partners in the Indo-Pacific as a counter to China’s ambitions in the region.

Biden and Kishida are expected to announce some 70 new initiatives to elevate the military, intelligence, research and development partnership between the U.S. and Japan to the next level, administration officials previewed for reporters in a call Tuesday night. 

“In the last 60 years, you would define this relationship between the United States and Japan… as one of alliance protection. I think this State visit ends that era and defines the next period of time as alliance projection,” a senior administration official said. 

The U.S. is Japan’s only mutual-defense treaty ally, making it significantly dependent on protection from the U.S. in the face of provocations by China in the surrounding seas, and North Korea’s nuclear threats. 

But the U.S. views Japan as a linchpin of security in the region and a critical partner in the Indo-Pacific able to exercise influence with neighbors, and able to contribute significantly to addressing conflict on the global stage. 

The dozens of announcements to come out of the State visit are focused on aligning closer U.S. and Japanese military cooperation and coordination – with U.S. forces undergoing a restructuring to better coordinate with Japan establishing a new, Joint Operations Command overseeing their ground, maritime and air forces.

The U.S. and Japan are launching a military-industrial council to “co-align and co-produce” defense weapons, elevating Japan’s weapons industrial capacity, an official said.

The two countries will link up with Australia for an integrated air defense network and the U.S. and Japan are also expected to deepen intelligence cooperation, with the administration saying it was confident Tokyo has taken steps to address its security — following the U.S. discovery of a significant Chinese hacking of Japan’s government computer networks.

“I think it’s fair to say that our Japanese partners and allies have taken substantial steps on information security, and procedures that protect the most sensitive of information potentially shared between the United States and Japan,” a senior administration official said. 

“You will see over the course of the next few days that we are stepping up our intelligence cooperation.”

Japan will also be made a lunar exploration partner and cooperation between NASA and Japan’s JAXA will also be expanded — a Japanese astronaut is expected to be chosen as the first non-American to land on the moon in a future mission. 

Biden and Kishida will also announce new research partnerships on artificial intelligence between American and Japanese universities. 

What isn’t expected to come up in conversation between Biden and Kishida is the president’s opposition to Japan’s Nippon Steel effort to buy U.S. Steel. 

“No,” three administration officials said in unison after a reporter asked if the topic is expected to be broached. 

“The relationship between the United States and Japan is far bigger and more significant than a single commercial deal,” one of the senior administration officials said earlier in the call. 

“I just think that this single commercial transaction does not define, not only the visit, but the relationship and its potential, or what it is actually delivering in the region or across the globe.”

Kishida’s State visit marks the fifth such event hosted by the administration and serves as a capstone to State visits held for countries that the administration has singled out as central to exercising influence in the region — including India, Australia and South Korea. Biden hosted French President Emanuel Macron in December 2022 for the first State visit of his administration. 

Japan is a member of the Quad security grouping with India and Australia, a member of the Group of 7 nations at the forefront of supporting Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia, and is deepening ties with South Korea and the Philippines at the initiative of the U.S. Following the state visit, Kishida will participate in a trilateral summit with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday.

“Everything that we’re doing of purpose on the global stage, we’re doing with Japan,” said one senior administration official.

Another significant aspect of the State visit administration officials were keen to highlight is the Japanese prime minister being in Washington during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, commemorating a gift of the delicate trees to Washington in 1912 from Tokyo city’s mayor. 

A senior administration official listed the gift of Cherry Blossom trees as on par with the Statue of Liberty as two of the most consequential gifts provided by a foreign country. 

Last month, the National Park Service said that 158 Cherry Blossom trees would have to be cut down for renovation to Washington D.C.’s Tidal Basin on the National Mall.

Kishida, who will have a planting ceremony on the national mall on Wednesday, has offered to provide the U.S. cherry blossom saplings “when the time is right to replace these felled trees, to signal their continuing friendship and partnership,” an official said. 

“I think we’ll find that it’s initiatives like this, that may not be as significant as new arrangements on military command structures or joint co-production on the military side, but they’re deeply significant to our peoples,” the official said.

Source: The Hill

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