Biden seeks closer ties with Japan as the U.S. prepares to challenge China

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U.S. and Japanese national flags displayed outside the Palace Hotel Tokyo on May 25, 2019 ahead of former U.S President Donald Trump’s state visit.

Tomohiro Ohsumi | Getty Images

U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday — and political analysts say China’s growing influence will likely be high on the agenda.

The two leaders will gather in Washington in what will be the U.S. president’s first in-person summit with a foreign leader since his January inauguration. The meeting comes as the U.S. seeks to challenge China on issues ranging from human rights to unfair trade practices.

“Rebuilding US alliances and competing with China are the core of Biden’s foreign policy. The in-person meeting with Suga signals that Japan is a linchpin of both efforts,” Jonathan Wood, director and lead U.S. analyst at consultancy Control Risks, told CNBC in an email.

Countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Biden and Suga are expected to discuss U.S.-Japan security partnership and other potential areas of cooperation during their meeting. That could include climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and stability in the Taiwan Strait, said analysts.

… the best way for Washington to compete with Beijing’s economic influence in the Indo-Pacific is to offer a more attractive development option to countries in the region.

“That’s because the best way for Washington to compete with Beijing’s economic influence in the Indo-Pacific is to offer a more attractive development option to countries in the region,” he added.

Even before he was elected as president, Biden had criticized China for financing dirty fossil fuel projects through the Belt and Road Initiative. He brought up the possibility of working with allies to offer alternative sources of financing for lower-carbon energy projects.   

Japan’s balancing act

Prior to Wang’s remarks, Beijing criticized the U.S.-Japan joint statement issued during Blinken and Austin’s visit to Tokyo. The statement raised concerns about Chinese behavior in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea that was “inconsistent with the existing international order.”

Beijing shot back, saying the statement “maliciously attacks” China’s foreign policy and “flagrantly interferes” with its domestic affairs.

For Japan, “balancing between the US and China right now requires a precise understanding of the intention and scope of US measures,” said Wood of Control Risks.

Eurasia Group’s Thomas said Japan would stop short of supporting U.S. position on human rights issues and policies to selectively “decouple” from the Chinese economy.  



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