President Celebrates ‘Unbreakable Alliance’ During Japanese Prime Minister’s Visit

April 10, 2024 by Dan McCue
President Celebrates ‘Unbreakable Alliance’ During Japanese Prime Minister’s Visit
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Joe Biden shake hands in the Rose Garden of the White House following their joint press conference on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden feted his Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the latter’s state visit here on Wednesday, while also announcing a series of moves intended to deepen cooperation between the two nations on several fronts.

“The unbreakable alliance between Japan and the United States is the cornerstone of peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and around the world,” Biden said during a lengthy ceremony on the White House South Lawn this morning, welcoming the prime minister and his wife Yuko Kishida.

And developments throughout the day made clear the two men intended to keep it that way.

After the pomp and circumstance of a military drill and a brass band playing patriotic songs, the two leaders met for an extended bilateral session in the oval office.

Upon emerging from the office and entering the White House Rose Garden under a gloriously sunny sky, Biden wasted no time laying out the wide range of topics he and Kishida discussed.

Right at the top was a list of steps the United States and Japan will take to further deepen their military cooperation and to counter China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region.

The relationship between the United States and Japan, the president said, had grown from a strong regional to global partnership “thanks in no small part to the courageous leadership of Prime Minister Kishida.”

“Together our countries are taking significant steps to strengthen our defense security cooperation, modernizing command and control structures, and increasing interoperability and planning between our militaries so that they can work together in a seamless and effective way,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Photo by Dan McCue)

Biden went on to point out that “this is the most significant upgrade of our alliance since it was first established,” but there was more to come.

The president announced that for the first time, the United States, Japan and Australia will create what he called “a network system of air, missile and defense architecture.”

“We’re also looking forward to standing up a trilateral military exercise with the United Kingdom, and exploring ways for Japan to join our work in the second pillar [a U.S.-led coalition with Australia and New Zealand], which focuses on advanced capabilities, including AI [and] autonomous systems.

“All told, these steps represent a new benchmark in our military cooperation across a range of capabilities,” Biden said.

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.

The president went on to note that on the economic front, Japan is the top foreign investor in the United States and that our country is the top foreign investor in Japan.

“Nearly 1 million Americans work with Japanese companies here in the United States,” Biden said, pointing, as an example, to Toyota, which recently announced an $8 billion investment in a massive battery production facility in North Carolina.

Kishida is scheduled to visit the project site on Thursday.

In another sign of the enduring good relations between the two countries, Kishida announced Japan is giving the United States 250 new cherry trees to help replace the hundreds that are being cut down this summer as construction crews work to repair the crumbling seawall around the capital’s Tidal Basin.

“I am confident that the cherry blossom-like bond of the Japan-U.S. alliance will continue to grow even thicker and stronger, in the Indo-Pacific and in all corners of the world,” Kishida said.

Biden said the gift is meant to mark the 250th anniversary of the United States in 2026, adding, “Like our friendship, these trees are timeless, inspiring and thriving.”

He also said he and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden took a walk across the south lawn of the White House Tuesday evening with the prime minister and his wife, shortly after their arrival in town, to visit three cherry trees.

One of the trees was planted by the first ladies last year. The other two are part of the batch of saplings that will eventually take up residence at the Tidal Basin.

“Every spring, cherry blossoms bloom across this city, thanks to a gift from Japan of 3,000 cherry trees over a century ago,” Biden said, referring to the arrival of the trees in 1912, when Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador to the United States, planted two Yoshino cherry saplings on the northern bank of the Potomac River.

President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan McCue)

“People travel from all over our country and the world to see these magnificent blossoms,” Biden said.

The president also heaped praise on Japan for being quick to step up in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, joining the United States and other Western allies in mounting aggressive sanctions on Moscow.

“The prime minister is a visionary and courageous leader,” Biden said. “When Russia began its brutal invasion of Ukraine two years ago, he did not hesitate to condemn sanctions and isolate Russia and provide billions in assistance to Ukraine.”

Kishida’s visit to Washington completes a series of leader-to-leader confabs with members of “the Quad,” the partnership between the United States, Japan, Australia and India, that is at the center of the administration’s containment strategy for a potential crisis in the Indo-Pacific.

Speaking through an interpreter, Kishida said the cooperation between Japan and the United States is “bound together by common values.”

“Today the world faces more challenges and difficulties than ever before. Japan will join hands with our American friends and together we will lead the way in tackling the challenges of the Indo-Pacific region and the world, while tirelessly developing the relationship,” he said.

One divisive issue that was not addressed publicly on Wednesday was Biden’s announced opposition of a planned sale of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel of Japan. 

Last month, Biden said his misgivings about the sale were based on his belief that the U.S. needs to “maintain strong American steel companies powered by American steelworkers.”

Speaking in the Rose Garden, both leaders side-stepped questions about their differences, choosing instead to provide answers that touched on broader and less inharmonious themes.

On Wednesday night, the Bidens were set to again play hosts to the Kishidas with a lavish state dinner expected to be attended by more than 200 guests with ties to both nations.

Among the early arrivals for the dinner were Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez; former Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards; the actor Robert De Niro and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen; Apple CEO Tim Cook; former Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi; Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin; Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell; and former President Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The guests will dine on a first course of house-cured salmon and an entree of dry-aged rib eye steak with pepper butter, fava beans, mushrooms and onions. Dessert is salted caramel pistachio cake with a matcha ganache and cherry ice cream.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden of the White House on Wednesday. (Photo by Dan McCue)

During the dinner, the tables will be set with place settings representing the administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush, and decorated with roses and peonies — said to be the first lady’s favorite flowers — as well as imported cherry blossoms.

After dinner, the iconic New York-bred singer Paul Simon will perform a selection of his most famous songs dating back to his years as half of Simon and Garfunkle and his extraordinary solo career.

Kishida is reportedly a huge fan of American music. In addition to being an admirer of Simon’s work, he’s also said to enjoy the work of another New Yorker, Billy Joel. In fact, an autographed Billy Joel album was among the gifts the Bidens gave Kishida upon his arrival.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @DanMcCue

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  • China
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