Joe Biden announces strengthened defense relationship with Japan

Joe Biden announced on Wednesday April 10 the most significant strengthening of defense relations with Japan since the Cold War, and increased air defense cooperation extended to Australia

Joe Biden announces strengthened defense relationship with Japan

Joe Biden announced on Wednesday April 10 the most significant strengthening of defense relations with Japan since the Cold War, and increased air defense cooperation extended to Australia. “Together, our countries are taking important steps to strengthen defense and security cooperation,” the US president said at a press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“This is the most important evolution of our alliances since the end of the Cold War,” he said, citing the modernization of “command and control structures (…) interoperability and planning our militaries so they can work together seamlessly and effectively.”

“I am also pleased to announce that, for the first time, Japan, the United States and Australia will create an air missile network and defense architecture,” he said, these two countries being key in its competitive strategy with China.

Mr. Biden, however, was keen to emphasize that strengthening the military alliance with Japan was “purely defensive.” The Japanese Prime Minister called for “peace and stability” against a backdrop of tensions between China and Taiwan.

In a sign of their rapprochement, Mr. Biden also announced that a Japanese astronaut will be the first non-American to land on the Moon, as part of an American space mission.

The “indestructible” alliance between the two countries

The American president received the Japanese leader with great fanfare at the White House, speaking of a partnership as “flourishing” as cherry trees in spring. During a ceremony in the morning, he hailed a “visionary and courageous” leader, and praised the “indestructible” alliance between the two countries.

In 1912, the mayor of Tokyo gave the city of Washington several thousand cherry trees, the flowering of which brings tourists to the American capital every year. Fumio Kishida followed suit, declaring that his country would offer 250 additional cherry trees on the occasion of the 280th anniversary of the founding of the United States in 2026.

The first Japanese leader to receive the honors of a state visit to Washington since 2015

The wives of the two leaders, Jill Biden and Yuko Kishida, were also present for the welcoming ceremony, which was followed by a working meeting, before a gala dinner.

The 66-year-old prime minister is the first Japanese leader to receive the honors of a state visit to Washington since Shinzo Abe in 2015. This underlines the importance given by the American president to strengthening alliances in the face of countries such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, in an increasingly uncertain world.

“This is an exceptional and historic summit,” a senior US administration official told the press before the visit. Some 54,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan.

The first trilateral summit between Japan, the Philippines and the United States

Firmly pacifist for several decades, Japan has made changes in its defense policy in recent years "among the most significant and considerable" since the Second World War, said the United States Ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, in ahead of the state visit.

For the gala dinner, the White House will be adorned with cherry blossom branches. Then the musician Paul Simon, legend of American folk, “will perform a selection of his emblematic songs”, the White House services announced.

On Thursday, Fumio Kishida must address both houses of the American Congress before being received again by Joe Biden, alongside the Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos (son and namesake of the former dictator). That day, the American president will organize the first trilateral summit between Japan, the Philippines and the United States.

The only potential downside to the Japanese Prime Minister's visit: the controversy surrounding the announced acquisition of the American steel giant US Steel by the Japanese Nippon Steel. The Democratic president is, in fact, opposed to this operation, which could play a role in his re-election campaign against his protectionist predecessor, Donald Trump.