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Editorial: Japan, U.S. leaders’ responsibility to support world order

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio met with U.S. President Joe Biden, and they agreed to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance in all aspects and particularly security and the economy.


Biden is visiting Japan for the first time as the American president, and we would like to commend him for clarifying the U.S.’s continued involvement in Asia and to acknowledge the leaders of Japan and the United States for demonstrating a commitment to take further responsibility for the maintenance and development of the world order.


Not allow change to status quo through force


China and Russia are challenging the world order, which is based on the rule of law, and the stability of the world is being rattled in a way it has not been since World War II and the Cold War. The United States had been singlehandedly maintaining global stability, but it now lacks to power to do so. The need for Japan – a U.S. ally that shares common values such as democracy, freedom, and human rights – to support the United States has never been greater.


One of the key outcomes of the meeting was the two leaders’ decision to join hands to deter China. Biden said the United States would intervene militarily in the event of a Taiwan contingency, thus confirming the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. He also criticized China’s maritime expansion in the East and South China Seas.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exposed the possibility that a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force could also occur in Asia. At a press conference, Biden said that the U.S. would not allow China to unify Taiwan by force.


To prevent such a situation, Japan and the United States need to strengthen their deterrence and response capabilities under the Alliance. Prime Minister Kishida informed Biden of his intention to radically strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities, including increasing defense spending. The Japanese leader said he would not rule out any options, including [acquiring] “counterattack capability” against a country attacking Japan.


Japan plans to revise its National Security Strategy at the end of the year. For the nation to create effective measures, we would like to see the government carefully discuss this matter while gaining the understanding of the people.


Biden said that the U.S. is unwavering in its extended deterrence to Japan backed by the full range of military capabilities, including nuclear, and the two leaders agreed to work closely together, including at the ministerial level. Extended deterrence is the concept of seeing a nuclear attack on an ally as an attack on one’s own country and launching a counterattack with nuclear weapons.


We would like to see both countries continue to take every opportunity to confirm strong extended deterrence and increase confidence in that arrangement.


Biden announced the start of the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF),” which will enhance collaboration with Asia under the leadership of the United States. Prime Minister Kishida pledged Japan’s participation and cooperation. In addition to Japan and the United States, a total of 13 countries, including India, Australia, South Korea, and Indonesia, will join the talks.


The group will discuss rule-making and economic cooperation under the four pillars of trade, supply chains, infrastructure/decarbonization, and tax and anti-corruption measures.


U.S. economic involvement in Asia has declined since the Trump administration decided to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). China is rapidly gaining influence, and it is a step forward that the United States has laid the groundwork for the U.S. to focus on the Asian economic order as well. Japan should also actively support the initiative.


Many questions remain, however, regarding the IPEF. First is its effectiveness. The United States has excluded tariff cuts and the like from the IPEF talks, out of consideration for the [American] public’s concern that free trade threatens employment. There is a chance that Southeast Asian countries, which hope to expand exports, may hesitate to engage in discussions [under such conditions]. Domestic public support for the Biden administration is sluggish, and it is unclear whether an agreement formed with the current regime will remain in effect.


Increase the effectiveness of IPEF


The key will be whether the IPEF quickly produces results that benefit the participating countries. We would like to see the effectiveness of the IPEF raised by having the initiative’s policies and measures promptly bear fruit in concrete ways, such as in strengthening supply chains for semiconductors and storage batteries, digital transactions, and decarbonization. Japan also bears the responsibility of persistently urging the U.S. to return to the TPP even under the Biden administration.


Japan and the United States agreed to have their economic ministers hold periodic consultations and strengthen cooperation in energy security, such as securing liquefied natural gas (LNG). We would like to see the two allies put in place an agile and strong response, recognizing the risk that the Ukraine crisis may lead to China’s taking iron-fisted actions.


At the meeting, the leaders also discussed Japan-South Korea relations, and Biden, who visited South Korea prior to coming Japan, called for improvement in that relationship. [Trilateral] cooperation between Japan, the United States, and South Korea is necessary not only to address North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs but also to handle China. We would like to see Prime Minister Kishida make efforts to rebuild our nation’s  bilateral relations with South Korea.


Biden has spearheaded the solidarity of the G7 countries, including its sanctions on Russia. However, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as other countries face unique circumstances that make it difficult for them to take a clear position.


Japan is the only Asian member of the G7, and it will host the G7 Summit in Hiroshima next year. Further initiatives to bridge the United States, Europe, and Asia are needed to maintain the world order.


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