Biden seeks unity with Japan’s Suga against China’s assertiveness at first White House summit


WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Calling democracy the foundation for global prosperity, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday in a bid to underscore the two countries’ alliance as a counter to an autocratic and increasingly assertive China.

Suga and Biden, who wore masks for their meeting in the state dining room in a visit modified by White House precautions against the coronavirus, are seeking to challenge messaging from Chinese President Xi Jinping that America and democracies, in general, are on the decline, after the political turmoil and international withdrawal that marked former President Donald Trump’s presidency.

Suga said democracy, human rights and other shared values were “the very foundation of prosperity of the region and the globe.” It was one of many comments seen as a reference to China, which is increasingly flexing its economic and military strength internationally. Suga, who is seeking to showcase Japan’s security commitments with the United States, Japan’s only treaty ally, told reporters before his talks with Biden that the trip was meant to “reaffirm the new and tight bond between us” as the U.S. and Japan deal with challenges in the region.

China topped the agenda, underscoring Japan’s central role in U.S. efforts to face down the challenge from Beijing.

“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 Rose Garden press conference, calling discussions “productive.”

Other main concerns at the talks included China’s growing military pressure on Taiwan, its tightening grip on Hong Kong, and its crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.

The meeting was also expected to yield steps for diversifying supply chains seen as over-reliant on Beijing and a $2 billion commitment from Japan to work with the United States on alternatives to the 5G network of Chinese firm Huawei, a senior U.S. official said earlier.

The summit, Biden’s first in-person meeting with a foreign leader as president, was expected to produce a formal statement on Taiwan, a Chinese-claimed, self-ruled island under increasing military pressure from Beijing, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It would be the first joint statement on Taiwan by U.S. and Japanese leaders since 1969. However, it appears likely to fall short of what Washington has been hoping from Suga, who inherited a China policy that sought to balance security concerns with economic ties when he took over as premier last September.

Taiwan is independently ruled, but China claims it. There have been increasing tensions between that government and Beijing.

On Friday morning, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters, including the Associated Press that China will be watching closely.

“China has no objection to the development of normal bilateral relations between Japan and the United States, but such relations should help enhance mutual understanding and trust among regional countries and contribute to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and should not target or harm the interests of third parties,” Zhao said.

A top Chinese diplomat also called U.S. policy on China “too negative,” Friday, saying it highlights confrontation over cooperation.

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng said cooperation could be critically important as U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration focuses on COVID-19 and economic recovery.

Le told The Associated Press in an interview that the two countries could tide over many difficulties by working together. He said the emphasis on competition and confrontation lacks a forward-looking spirit.

But the vice minister added that cooperation needs to be on an equal basis and should not be “one side drawing up a laundry list or demands to the other side.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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