WASHINGTON- President Joe Biden Y Prime Minister Fumio Kishida They were set to hold broad talks at the White House on Friday as Japan seeks to build security cooperation with allies amid growing concerns about provocative military action by China and North Korea.

The two administrations were also set to seal an agreement Friday to bolster US-Japan cooperation in space with a signing ceremony by the Secretary of State. anthony blink and Japan’s Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa.

The Oval Office meeting and signing ceremony at from NASA The Washington headquarters will cap off a week-long tour by Kishida that has taken him to five European and North American capitals for talks on his effort to strengthen Japan’s security.

It all comes as Japan announced plans last month to increase defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product in five years, a dramatic increase in spending for a nation that forged a pacifist approach to its defense after World War II. Historically, Japan’s defense spending has remained below 1% of GDP.

«Japan is stepping up and doing so in unison with the United States,» White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

Blinken said earlier this week that the US-Japan framework for space cooperation was a «decade in the making» and «covers everything from joint research to working together to bring the first woman and person of color to Earth.» Moon».

He added that the United States and Japan agree that China is their «biggest shared strategic challenge» and confirmed that an attack in space would trigger a mutual defense provision in the US-Japan security treaty.

Before Friday’s meeting of the two leaders, US and Japanese officials announced an adjustment to the presence of US troops on the island of Okinawa in part to enhance anti-ship capabilities that would be needed in the event of a Chinese incursion into Taiwan or other hostile acts in the region. Japan is also beefing up defenses on its southwestern islands near Taiwan, including Yonaguni and Ishigaki, where new bases are being built.

Japan’s push to increase defense spending and coordination comes amid growing concerns that China could take military action to seize Taiwan and that increased North Korean missile tests could portend that the isolated nation achieves its nuclear ambitions.

The talks with Biden «will be a valuable opportunity to confirm our close cooperation to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance and our joint effort to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific,» Kishida told reporters just before leaving Japan. towards his trip to five countries. route.

His meeting with Biden is the latest face-to-face in a week of talks with other Group of Seven leaders that focused largely on their efforts to boost Japan’s defense spending and urge the leaders to improve cooperation.

With British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, he consolidated Japan’s first defense deal with a European nationwhich allows the two countries to conduct joint military exercises.

Kishida also spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and French President Emmanuel Macron about their hopes for enhancing security cooperation between Japan and their respective nations. Germany was the only G-7 country not on Kishida’s itinerary.

Japan announced plans last month to buy Tomahawks made in the USA. and other long-range cruise missiles that can hit targets in China or North Korea under a more offensive security strategy, while Japan, Britain and Italy unveiled plans to collaborate on a next-generation fighter jet project. .

“Just a few years ago, there would have been some discomfort in Washington with a Japan that has this kind of military capability,” said Chris Johnstone, a former National Security Council official in the Biden administration who is now the Japan Chair at the Center. of Strategic and International Studies. «Those days are gone.»

Biden administration officials have praised Japan for stepping up after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Japan was quick to join the US and other Western allies in imposing aggressive sanctions on Moscow, and Japanese carmakers Mazda, Toyota and Nissan announced their withdrawal from Russia.

Biden administration officials have been pleasantly surprised by Japan’s intensified effort to reconsider its security.

A senior administration official, who requested anonymity to discuss the negotiations with the Japanese, noted that historically, negotiations involving the US force posture on Okinawa have been «incredibly tense, incredibly challenging and difficult» and often Often, they took years to complete. But negotiations leading up to this week’s meetings were completed surprisingly quickly, the official said.

The official said Biden is expected to make the case for Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis, a US Navy officer deployed to Japan who was jailed after pleading guilty last year to the careless driving deaths of two Japanese nationals in May 2021.

Alkonis’s family says he suddenly fell unconscious at the wheel during a family trip on Mount Fuji. He swerved into parked cars and pedestrians in a parking lot, striking an elderly woman and her son-in-law, who later died.

The Navy officer was sentenced to three years in prison in October, a sentence that the family and US lawmakers called excessively harsh considering the circumstances. Alkonis also agreed to pay the victims $1.65 million in restitution.

The official added that the administration was working «to find a compassionate resolution that is consistent with the rule of law.»

Kishida was scheduled to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday before her meeting with Biden.

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