US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will present a united front on Taiwan, over which Beijing is becoming more aggressive, in a summit meeting on Friday.
A senior US administration official has told Reuters that the two are expected to agree on a joint statement on the Chinese-claimed but democratically ruled island at Biden’s first in-person meeting with a foreign leader.
The two leaders will also discuss Beijing’s treatment of Muslims in the Xinjiang region and its influence over Hong Kong.
They will also announce a US$2 billion Japanese investment in 5G telecommunications to counter China’s Huawei.
The last time US and Japanese leaders referred to Taiwan in a joint statement was in 1969, when Japan’s prime minister said maintenance of peace and security in the “Taiwan area” was important for its own security.
The coming statement is likely to fall short of what Washington wanted to see from Suga, who inherited a China policy that sought to balance security concerns with deep economic ties when he took over as premier last September.
Japanese ruling party lawmakers have been divided over whether Suga should endorse a strong statement on Taiwan.
The US official said Washington expected “each of our countries has slightly different perspectives” and would not “insist on Japan somehow signing on to every dimension of our approach”.
He added, “We also recognise the deep economic and commercial ties between Japan and China and Prime Minister Suga wants to walk a careful course, and we respect that.”
He said both countries, while not wanting to raise tensions or provoke China, sought to send a clear signal that Beijing’s almost daily flying of warplanes into Taiwan’s airspace was incompatible with peace and stability.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring the Taiwan back under its control.
With his first in-person summit with Suga, and another planned with South Korea’s leader in May, Biden is working to focus US military and diplomatic resources to the Indo-Pacific in order to manage China’s rising global power, which he sees as the critical foreign policy issue of the era.