Biden will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Kishida amid disagreements over the US steel deal

Washington (AFP) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida The long-awaited has begun Visit to Washington Shared concerns about China's provocative military action in the Pacific and a rare moment of public spat between the two countries over a Japanese company's plan to buy a popular American company were in the spotlight on Tuesday.

Kishida and his wife stopped by the White House on Tuesday evening before the official visit on Wednesday State dinner As President Joe Biden looks to celebrate a decades-long ally he considers a cornerstone of his Indo-Pacific policy. Kishida will be the fifth world leader to be honored by Biden with a state dinner since he took office in 2021.

The two shook hands and First Lady Jill Biden embraced Kishida's wife, Yoko. The foursome posed for a photo and took a short tour of the grounds before heading to upscale seafood restaurant BlackSalt for dinner.

The Bidens were presenting the Prime Minister with a three-legged table handmade by a company owned by Japanese Americans in Pennsylvania. The President was also gifting Kishida a custom framed lithograph and a two-volume LP set signed by Billy Joel. Jill Biden gave Yuko Kishida an autographed soccer ball from the US Women's National Team and the Japanese Women's National Team.

Before visiting the White House, Kishida laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday and stopped by the US Chamber of Commerce and met with Microsoft Vice Chairman and President Brad Smith. On Wednesday, Biden and Kishida will hold talks and participate in a joint press conference before Biden receives the Japanese leader with an official dinner in the East Room.

The Prime Minister was also invited to address a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday. He will be the second Japanese leader to address the body; Shinzo Abe addressed Congress in 2015.

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The visit comes after Biden announced last month that… He opposes the planned sale of Pittsburgh-based US Steel to Japan's Nippon Steel, exposing a notable rift in the partnership at a time when the two leaders aim to strengthen it. In announcing his opposition, Biden claimed that the United States needed to “preserve strong American steel companies supported by American steelworkers.”

Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, Biden's envoy to Tokyo, sought on Monday to downplay the impact of Biden's opposition to the purchase of US Steel on the relationship. Emanuel noted that the Biden administration in February approved a plan that would bring billions of dollars in revenue to a U.S.-based subsidiary of Japan's Mitsui to produce cranes in the United States.

“The United States’ relationship with Japan is deeper, stronger and more important than a single trade deal,” Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor, said in a joint appearance at the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies with Japan’s top envoy to Washington. . “As we say in Chicago, you gotta calm down.”

Nippon Steel It announced in December that it planned to buy US Steel for $14.1 billion in cash, raising concerns about what the deal could mean for unionized workers, supply chains and American national security. Shigeo Yamada, Japan's ambassador to Washington, declined to comment on whether Kishida would raise the Nippon-US Steel deal with Biden.

US investment in Japan and vice versa would make “the economies more interconnected and inseparable,” said Kishida of the American Chamber. Smith, Microsoft's vice president, announced that the technology company will invest $2.9 billion in Japan over the next two years to expand its cloud computing and artificial intelligence operations there. Microsoft will work with the Japanese government to improve its cybersecurity capabilities.

“We see this as an important investment in every Japanese company we support and in the Japanese government as well,” Smith said.

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Biden has sought to focus foreign policy more on the Pacific region even as he faces the repercussions of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the devastating crisis. Israel-Hamas war. Last year, Biden paired Kishida with… South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol At the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, Historic summit Between the leaders of the two countries that have a difficult common history.

Biden did Yoon honored with a state visit Kishida's predecessor, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, chose it as the first direct visit by a foreign leader during his presidency.

The administration was pleased with Japan's strong support for Ukraine. Tokyo has been one of Kiev's largest donors since the Russian invasion in February 2022, as has Japan Has risen Its defense spending amid concerns about Chinese military aggression.

Yamada suggested that Kishida emphasize Japan's support for Ukraine during his appearance before Congress, and explain why the conflict in Eastern Europe is so important to his country. Biden is struggling to persuade Republicans in the House of Representatives to support his call to send an additional $60 billion to Kiev as part of its attempt to fend off Russia.

Kishida warned that war in Europe could lead to conflict in East Asia, noting that the lenient stance towards Russia encourages China.

“The prime minister’s conviction is that today’s Ukraine can become tomorrow’s East Asia,” Yamada said.

The Pentagon announced on Monday that the United States and the United Kingdom. Australia was considering including Japan in the AUKUS Partnership, a group launched in 2021 that aims to supply Australia with nuclear-powered, conventionally armed submarines.

Beijing has condemned the AUKUS agreement, which it says encourages division and could lead to military confrontation in the region. On Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its objection to Japan's expected new role.

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Kishida is scheduled to tour Washington on Thursday to participate in a meeting with Biden Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Philippine-Chinese relations have been repeatedly tested by their skirmishes Coast Guard ships in both countries In the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese Coast Guard vessels also regularly approach disputed Japanese-controlled East China Sea islands Taiwan. Beijing says Taiwan is part of its territory and will be controlled by force if necessary.

“Cooperation between our three countries is very important in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and in defending a free and open international order based on the rules of law,” Kishida said on Monday before leaving for Washington.

The leaders are expected to discuss plans to modernize the US military command structure in Japan. There are about 54,000 American soldiers stationed in Japan.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the leaders' announcements on defense will enable “greater coordination in integrating our forces and ensuring they are optimally positioned and connected to other like-minded partners.”

Kishida and Biden are also expected to confirm Japan's participation in NASA's Artemis Moon Program In addition to its contribution to a lunar rover developed by Toyota Motor Company and the inclusion of a Japanese astronaut in the mission. The rover, costing about $2 billion, will be the most expensive contribution to the mission by a non-U.S. partner to date.

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Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Josh Boak and Didi Tang in Washington contributed to this report.

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