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U.S. wants Japan to play larger role in deterring China amid rising tensions with Russia  

Sunday’s Nikkei wrote that the U.S. and Japanese leaders held in-depth discussions in their summit on Friday on the escalating tensions with Russia over Ukraine in addition to China issues, noting that as the Biden administration’s top foreign policy focus right now appears to be Ukraine, it is expecting Tokyo to play a greater role in deterring China. President Biden reportedly welcomed Prime Minister Kishida’s resolve to increase defense spending. While quoting the Japanese leader as telling the press after the summit that Japan will coordinate closely with the U.S. and other partners to “respond firmly to any attack” by the Russians against Ukraine, the paper projected that the premier’s pledge would be tested if sanctions are imposed on Moscow since Japanese business interests in Russia and bilateral peace treaty talks may be adversely affected. 

Mainichi wrote on Sunday that President Biden was extremely anxious to draw a commitment from Kishida to take a concerted line on the rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine, quoting a source close to the premier as saying after the session: “The President was lobbying the premier very hard to ensure Japan’s involvement.” The U.S. side was reportedly pleased with the Japanese leader giving such assurances, with an unnamed senior USG official saying: “The prime minister made it clear that he would fully support the United States even in a severe situation in the future.”  

Saturday’s Sankei conjectured that the situation in Ukraine was high on the agenda for the online summit, projecting that if Russia invades Ukraine despite repeated U.S. warnings, Japan will be pressed to join hands with U.S. and Europe in applying sanctions on Moscow. As Japan has asked the U.S. and Europe for support for its free and open Indo-Pacific initiative to deal with a rising China, the paper speculated that the Western partners would be disappointed if Tokyo chose not to take any action against Russia over Ukraine.  

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