US, Japan in ‘close consultations’ amid Russian tensions

President Biden gives his first press conference of 2022
Associated Press/Susan Walsh

President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida committed to working closely together to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine but stopped short of announcing a coordinated response should Moscow take action against Kyiv, a senior administration official said Friday.

The discussions came amid a virtual meeting held between the two leaders and senior officials to discuss a wide range of issues on the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Japan.

The senior official, briefing reporters after the meeting, said that Japan indicated it will continue to work with the U.S. in its efforts to push back on Russian threats against Ukraine but that the two sides “did not get into the specifics about possible steps that would be taken in the event that we see these actions transpire.”

“Both leaders promised that each side would be in close consultations. We are briefing Japan regularly on developments and concerns in Ukraine,” the official said.

Biden has tasked his senior officials with shoring up unity among allies in Europe and globally to deter Russia from launching an invasion against Ukraine, urging Moscow to engage in diplomacy or risk massive economic sanctions if it crosses Ukraine’s border. 

“The president was quite gratified that Prime Minister Kishida was so clear and firm in his resolve to support the United States as we engage in the challenges, currently, with respect to Russia,” the official said. 

The U.S. and Japan are both members of the Group of 7 (G-7) industrialized nations. In 2014, that group, then known as the G-8, kicked Russia out in response to its invasion and occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

“I think Japan indicated that they had worked and will continue to work with the G-7,” the senior official said. 

The virtual meeting between the president and the Japanese prime minister lasted for 90 minutes and was the second official meeting between the two leaders, having earlier met in Glasgow, Scotland, at the COP26 climate summit last fall.

Biden, during the virtual meeting, accepted an invitation from Kishida to visit Japan sometime in the spring, although the two did not commit to specifics given the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual meeting was “exceptionally broad, very warm and wide ranging,” the senior official said.

Biden and Kishida also discussed renewed North Korean missile provocations, with Pyongyang reportedly suggesting it will take steps to resume tests of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles on top of more recent ballistic missile launches that have drawn condemnation from the U.S. and its allies. 

“Both countries, obviously, strongly condemned the provocations that we’ve seen from North Korea,” the senior official said, adding that Washington and Tokyo are “prepared for diplomacy” but working on next steps to discourage possible provocations that might follow on, highlighting close consultations with South Korea on this issue. 

“I think we’ll have more to say from other parts of our government in the next couple of days,” the official said. 

Biden and Kishida also had an “in depth discussion on sharing perspectives on China” the official said, reinforcing commitments between the U.S. and Japan to support regional security and “promote and defend a free and open Indo-Pacific.” 

The Japanese prime minister also expressed concern about China’s nuclear buildup and the implications “for regional security more generally,” the official said. 

Biden and Kishida also established a new economic forum, called the “2+2,” to focus on new areas of technology development and supply chain resilience and that will be chaired by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.  

Tags Antony Blinken China Gina Raimondo Japan Joe Biden North Korea Russia Ukraine

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