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Japan, US leaders to affirm alliance over Taiwan amid Ukraine war

This combined photo shows Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and U.S. President Joe Biden. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden are set to affirm in a joint statement that they will strengthen cooperation toward stability in the Taiwan Strait when they meet next week in Tokyo, Japanese government sources said Tuesday.

    The premier is also expected to announce Japan's participation in the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework as he will hold summit talks with Biden on Monday. Kishida views the initiative as a reflection of U.S. intent to boost its involvement in the region in the face of China's growing clout.

    U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo confirmed on Tuesday during a press conference that the launch of the framework, which is still largely vague in substance, will be announced in Japan during Biden's first visit to the Asian country since taking office in January last year.

    By sending the message on Taiwan from Japan, the two countries are seeking to keep China's growing assertiveness in the region in check, while Russia's war in Ukraine has raised concerns that a similar situation could soon arise in East Asia, the Japanese sources said.

    Beijing views the self-ruled democratic island as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary, they said.

    Through the summit, Kishida also aims to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance based on the understanding that China, in the long-run, would replace Russia as a security challenge, according to the sources.

    As for the IPEF, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a news conference Tuesday that while Japan maintains it would be desirable for the United States to return to a major Pacific free-trade deal originally known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the new framework shows Washington's active commitment to the region.

    "We would like to work closely together with the United States to create a desirable economic order for the region in a way that includes" Washington, said Hayashi.

    The United States once led negotiations of the TPP -- seen as a counterweight to China's economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region -- but withdrew from the pact in 2017 under Biden's predecessor Donald Trump. Japan and the other 10 remaining Asia-Pacific members including Australia moved to salvage most of the treaty, now called the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    While sitting on the sidelines in terms of major regional free-trade agreements, the Biden administration has come up with the idea of launching the IPEF, calling it a "new partnership" to promote high-standard trade, govern the digital economy, improve supply-chain resiliency and catalyze investment in infrastructure.

    In what would be Kishida's first in-person, sit-down bilateral summit with Biden, the two will emphasize freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and stress that they will work with other countries sharing such universal values in facing China and Russia, the sources said.

    As Japan becomes more vocal on Taiwan issues, the "importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait" has become a phrase repeatedly affirmed between the two countries. In April 2021, Taiwan was mentioned in a U.S.-Japan leaders' statement for the first time since 1969.

    In the upcoming summit, the two sides will once again highlight peace and stability for Taiwan, while Kishida seeks to share with Biden a concern that what is happening in Ukraine could occur in East Asia as well. Such worries are expected to be reflected in their joint statement as well.

    The two countries will also align in continuing sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, while agreeing on close communication between the Group of Seven nations to respond to rising energy and food prices brought about by the war.

    The seven leading democracies have implemented various punitive measures including freezing assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country's central bank, along with excluding some major Russian lenders from a key international payment network known as SWIFT.

    The leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States plus the European Union have also stated their commitment to phasing out their dependency on Russian oil in their latest attempt to put more pressure on Moscow, which launched its military campaign against Ukraine on Feb. 24.

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