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military ties: Joe Biden and Fumio Kishida agree to tighten military and economic ties to counter China

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President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan announced a range of moves Wednesday to further enhance military, economic and other cooperation between the two longtime allies as part of the president’s efforts to counter China’s aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region.

During a pomp-filled ceremony honoring the visiting Japanese prime minister, the president said the United States and Japan would create an expanded defense architecture with Australia, participate in three-way military exercises with Britain and explore ways for Japan to join a U.S.-led coalition with Australia and Britain.

Biden also announced that the United States would take a Japanese astronaut to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program, which would be the first time a non-American has set foot on the moon.

“This is the most significant upgrade of our alliance since it was first established,” Biden said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden with the prime minister.

Kishida made a point of reaffirming Japan’s “strong support for Ukraine” in its war against Russia, a key priority for Biden, and framed the European conflict in terms of the precedent it could set in Japan’s neighborhood. “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow,” Kishida said.

As the perceived threat from China has grown, Japan has been the linchpin of broader U.S. efforts to unify its allies in the region — especially South Korea and the Philippines — into a coordinated force. The prime minister’s visit comes at the same time Biden is strengthening the U.S. partnership with the Philippines, which also finds itself the target of a mounting Chinese military presence in the South China Sea. On Thursday, Biden and Kishida will meet with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines to demonstrate their joint commitment. Biden and Kishida outlined greater coordination and integration between the military forces of both countries, including the formation of a joint defense council that could support more defense-related exports of equipment produced in Japan. And officials agreed on new cooperation on ventures in space and collaboration between research institutions working on artificial intelligence, semiconductors and clean energy.

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