US President Joe Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House on Friday as the Pacific allies seek to bolster cooperation, particularly in defense, amid rising mutual concerns over China.
Washington and Tokyo inked an expanded defense partnership on Wednesday with an increasingly China squarely the focus of the agreement. Beijing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, is the "greatest shared strategic challenge" confronting the allies.
Biden did not directly mention China in brief Oval Office remarks with Kishida before they began closed-door discussions, but said the US and Japan "have never been closer," and are working on "modernizing our military alliances, building on Japan's historic increase in defense spending and new national security strategy."
"The United States is fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance," he said. "Today I'm looking forward to how we can continue advancing our shared goals and values."
The president was alluding to Japan's decision in December to expand its defense capabilities by increasing spending by 20%, and acquiring what Tokyo calls a counterstrike capability in the event that it comes under attack. Japan historically maintained a very small military following under a Constitution written primarily by the US following World War II.
In exchange for accepting the largely pacifist document, Washington guaranteed to defend Japanese territory in the event of an attack, and that assurance was expanded on Wednesday to include any attacks in space.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is slated to sign the accord Friday evening.
Kishida acknowledged the burgeoning alliance, saying the allies are "currently facing the most challenging and complex security environment in recent history."
In addition to space, the new agreement includes the stationing of a new Marine regiment in Japan's southern island of Okinawa, and the construction of a new base for US fighter jets on the uninhabited islands of Mageshima in the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima.
The US has approximately 50,000 troops stationed in Japan under a bilateral security pact.
Source: Anadolu Agency