Harris calls US-Japan alliance a ‘cornerstone’ during Tokyo stop
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misidentified the new prime minister of Japan.
Vice President Harris touted the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance on Monday during a visit with the country’s prime minister in Tokyo.
Harris met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Akasaka Palace while leading a U.S. delegation to the country for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral, a visit that also comes amid regional security concerns from China and North Korea.
“As you have said, the alliance between Japan and the U.S. is a cornerstone of what we believe is integral to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region,” Harris said at the start of the meeting.
“We also believe it is in the best interest of the American people,” she added.
Harris is scheduled to attend a dinner with the prime minister at the Akasaka Palace later on Monday before attending the funeral on Tuesday. She will also hold bilateral meetings with the prime ministers of Australia and South Korea.
Abe, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, was assassinated in July while giving a campaign speech.
“His leadership strengthened the relationship between Japan and the United States,” Harris said of Abe at the start of her meeting with Kishida.
Kishida thanked Harris for traveling to Japan for Abe’s funeral, stressing a desire for a free and open Indo-Pacific through continuing to strengthen ties with the United States.
“I feel it is my duty to carry on [Abe’s] aspirations and expand on his diplomatic legacy and thereby strengthening and further advancing the bilateral relations,” Kishida said, based on an interpreter’s translation.
The duo’s meeting comes amid growing concerns about Chinese activity in the Taiwan Strait and fears over a potential invasion of Taiwan.
President Biden said the U.S. military would defend Taiwan in the event of an “unprecedented attack” during a “60 Minutes” interview aired last week, but White House officials quickly clarified that the U.S. policy toward the self-governing, democratic island has not changed.
Harris and Kishida also condemned North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launch, the latest in a provocative streak of weapons testing by the country, according to a White House readout of the meeting.
The missile launch also came as the USS Ronald Reagan arrived in South Korea for joint military exercises in response to the North Korean threat.
Harris is slated to visit the USS Howard, a naval destroyer, on Wednesday as part of the trip, where she will meet with sailors and deliver remarks about security in the region.
–Updated at 10:36 a.m.