TOKYO — Japan and the United States have decided to launch regular ministerial talks on economic and environmental issues in an attempt to boost bilateral cooperation amid China’s rise, government sources said Friday.
The launch of the framework, akin to the so-called two-plus-two security talks involving the countries’ foreign and defense chiefs, is expected to be agreed by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden when they hold a virtual summit later in the day, according to the Japanese government sources.
The four members of the new dialogue framework will be Japan’s foreign and industry ministers and the U.S. state and commerce secretaries, the sources said.
Japan and the United States are promoting a “free and open” Indo-Pacific as China’s growing economic and military clout has raised regional tensions.
The economy-focused two-plus-two framework is expected to take up infrastructure investment, economic security, green energy, trade and other issues, the sources said.
China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative, aimed at expanding its sphere of influence beyond East Asia, has been criticized for saddling poor nations with huge debts.
Safeguarding national interests on the economic front is a priority for Kishida, who took office in October. Japan and longtime security ally the United States have been seeking to strengthen cooperation to make supply chains more robust.
The United States has tightened its grip on China with export restrictions on sensitive technology that can be used for military purposes such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition.
Kishida had hoped to hold in-person talks with Biden, but surging COVID-19 cases forced him to give up on visiting the United States before the start of a parliamentary session in Japan earlier this month.
During the virtual meeting, the leaders are expected to affirm the strength of the bilateral alliance and discuss the Ukraine situation, amid concern that Russia could launch an invasion.
The summit comes as Japan is aiming to bolster its defense capabilities, faced with threats posed by North Korea, which has repeatedly test-fired missiles.