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US, Japan leaders present united front against China

US President Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Yoshihide Suga presented a united front against China during Suga’s visit to Washington on Friday.

It was Biden’s first in-person summit with a foreign leader since taking office.

“We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China and on issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as North Korea, to ensure a future of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Biden told a press conference, listing areas that have become the focus of growing regional tension.

Suga made a break from past Japanese leaders by openly commenting on China, saying he and Biden held “serious talks on China’s influence over the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.”

“We oppose any attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion,” Japan’s prime minister added.

What else did Biden, Suga say on East Asia?

According to the Japanese Prime Minister, Suga and Biden reaffirmed “the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.”

The comment comes amid Beijing’s increased military pressure on the self-ruled island that is claimed as a province by the government of mainland China. Just days before the summit, China sent 25 aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, near Taiwan.

Suga made repeated references to the “severe security environment” in East Asia.

Also discussed at the talks was China’s tightening grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

China’s response to criticism from abroad has been increasingly belligerent. Ahead of Suga’s visit to the US, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned his Japanese counterpart that Tokyo should “not get involved in the so-called confrontation between major countries,” according to a Chinese government statement.

What do they say about technology?

Biden said the United States and Japan will invest together in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

China could see this as another blow. It has seen its technology companies face increasing restrictions in the US. Huawei, the world’s leading producer of ultra-fast 5G network technology, has been targeted with US sanctions.

The previous Trump administration, which introduced the sanctions, claims Huawei is a back door for Chinese intelligence services to conduct espionage operations via critical infrastructure.

“Japan and the United States are both deeply invested in innovation and looking to the future,” Biden said. “That includes making sure we invest in and protect technologies that will maintain and sharpen our competitive edge.”

What will happen with the Tokyo Olympics?

Sporting events also made the agenda between the two leaders.

Suga said he told Biden “about my determination to realize the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer as a symbol of global unity,” and that Biden offered his support.

The games, postponed by a year, are set to be the first to go ahead amid a global pandemic. Japan is grappling with rising coronavirus infections with fewer than 100 days until the planned start.

During the press conference, Biden commented to Suga on the success of Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama in the Master’s Tournament. The 29-year-old is the first Japanese player to win at Augusta National.

“You’ve got a Japanese boy coming over here, and guess what? He won the Masters,” Biden said.

What’s Biden’s stance on Asia?

The Biden administration is seeking to pivot US foreign policy towards Asia and away from the Middle East. Former President Barack Obama attempted a similar strategy during his eight-year tenure, but his administration became mired in its responses to the 2011 Arab Spring and the rise of the “Islamic State” (IS). The so-called “pivot to Asia” also faced criticism after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists rejected Kyiv’s rule in 2014.

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