WASHINGTON – President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged on Friday to work together on the rapid development of 5G communication technologies to prevent any of the leading Chinese companies from dominating the global market. This is a symbolic first step in propping up an alliance that collapsed during the Trump administration.
The deal was one of the pre-negotiated results of a foreign leader’s first in-person visit to Mr Biden’s White House in three months, during which he only spoke to his colleagues overseas by phone or videoconference. For Mr Suga, just appearing in the rose garden with Mr Biden – where the President originally and incorrectly called him “Yosi” instead of “Yoshi” – was evidence that he had managed to maintain Japan’s most important international relationship despite either relationship most difficult presidential transitions in history.
“Our commitment to meet in person shows the importance and value we both place on this relationship,” said Biden. “We will work together to prove that democracies can still compete and win in the 21st century.”
However, the subtext of the meeting responded to China’s influence and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific and beyond – which Mr Biden sees as one of the main challenges of his tenure. And it was a careful dance, with Japanese officials not embroiled in tensions with Beijing over Taiwan, the South China Sea, and the rapid split between the western open internet and a Chinese government-dominated closed internet.
At a moment when Mr Biden has drawn lines in the sand – promising to compete with the Chinese government where he can and confront them where he must – Mr Suga tried, unsurprisingly, every sense of rivalry to water down.
Mr Biden said the two countries would “work together” in a number of areas, including “promoting secure and reliable 5G networks,” a technology that promises to revolutionize the speed and convenience of high-speed cellular connections in factories and hard drives . to reach rural areas. It’s also a technology that the US has been virtually absent from while one of the leading companies in Beijing, Huawei, has cabled large parts of Southeast Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East with the support of the Chinese government.
Mr Biden’s advisors have warned that if the United States does not engage allies in a race to catch up, national security results could be catastrophic: the world’s internet traffic and conversations will continue to flow over Beijing-controlled circuits. Aides said Japan and the United States would spend $ 2 billion on a joint project to develop alternative approaches – a remarkable change from the 1980s when they viewed each other as strong technological rivals.
The new Washington
“Japan and the US are both heavily invested in innovation and looking to the future,” said Biden. “This includes investing in and protecting the technologies that maintain and sharpen our competitive advantage, and that these technologies are subject to common democratic norms that we both share – norms set by democracies, not autocracies.”
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Suga carefully followed his script when speaking of “China’s Influence” and said, “We have agreed to use force or coercion to change any attempt to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas and countering intimidation to others in the US region. “Later, Mr. Suga referred directly to Taiwan at a time when the Democratic Island, still considered a rogue province by Beijing, was repeatedly inundated by Chinese warplanes.
He did not issue any warnings to China, simply saying that the two leaders agreed to the “importance of peace and stability” of the strait. It was a language that seemed to be consciously coined 52 years ago when President Richard M. Nixon and Prime Minister Eisaku Sato made a statement in which the Japanese leader said that “maintaining peace and security in the Taiwan region is also important to the peace and security of Japan”.
When the two leaders asked questions from reporters, Mr. Biden was asked about gun controls after another mass shooting that killed eight people at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis. Earlier in the day, Mr. Suga – whose country bans the holding of almost all guns and reports some of the lowest gun crime rates in the world – offered condolences. In the rose garden he stood in silence when the president called for a ban on assault weapons.
Mr Suga then asked his own domestic question on whether Japan would cancel the Olympics this year, due to be held in Tokyo in July, when many public health experts have argued that there is no safe way to move forward in the face of the coronavirus.
“I told the President about my determination to make the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games a symbol of global unity this summer,” said Suga. “President Biden has again expressed his support for this determination.”
The Biden government has also urged the Japanese government to make new greenhouse gas commitments with the United States to meet the net zero target by 2050. According to two government officials, the White House has urged Japan to cut emissions in half from 2013 to the end of the decade.
Officials had hoped Japan would announce an end to funding for the development of coal-fired power plants overseas on Friday, but Mr. Suga made no such public commitment.