US and Japan boost defence ties with eye on China

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Joe Biden and Fumio KushidaImage source, Getty Images

US President Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister have vowed to strengthen defence cooperation in the face of a potential threat from China.

The plans announced by Mr Biden and Fumio Kishida during his Washington visit include an expanded air defence network incorporating Australia.

Additionally, Mr Biden said a Japanese astronaut would join Nasa’s Artemis programme to put people on the moon.

The astronaut will become the first non-American on the moon’s surface.

Speaking from the Rose Garden of the White House during Mr Kishida’s state visit to Washington, Mr Biden said that the the deals constituted “the most significant upgrade of our alliance since was first established.”

Over the course of about two hours of talks, the two leaders largely focused on defence matters in the Indo-Pacific, as well as the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza.

North Korea, Taiwan and China were a particular focus of the discussions, Mr Kishida said.

“Unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion is absolutely unacceptable, wherever it may be,” Mr Kishida said.

“Regarding Russia’s aggression of Ukraine…Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow,” he added.

As part of the agreements, Mr Biden said that the US military establish a joint command structure with its Japanese counterparts.

The two allies will also develop a joint air and missile defence network in the region along with Australia, as well as participate in three-way military exercises, along with UK forces.

In the space sector, Japan will provide and operate a “pressurised lunar rover”, while the US will allow two Japanese astronauts to take part in NASA’s Artemis missions and – eventually – allow a Japanese astronaut to become the first non-American to land on the moon.

At a welcome ceremony earlier in the day, Mr Biden said the US and Japan had become “the closest of friends”.

The visit continues on Tuesday night with a lavish state dinner.

The event – which the White House said is themed on “the bounty of spring” – will include a musical performance by Paul Simon, a US performer best known for his work with Art Garfunkel.

On Thursday, Mr Kishida will head to Capitol Hill to address Congress and will participate in a three-way meeting with Mr Biden and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr that is expected to focus on China.

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