Kishida calls for America’s ‘pivotal’ role, stresses challenges from China, N. Korea, Russia

April 11, 2024

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made an emphatic call Thursday for the United States to continue its “pivotal” role for global peace and stability, pointing to security challenges from China, North Korea and Russia.

Kishida made the call during an address to a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, reiterating Japan’s commitment to working with the U.S. “shoulder to shoulder” through the alliance of the two countries that he said are “essential to peace, vital to freedom and fundamental to prosperity.”

“The world needs the United States to continue playing this pivotal role in the affairs of nations,” Kishida said during his address delivered in English.

He said that America has championed freedom, democracy, stability and prosperity under the international order, while voicing concerns that the order faces “new challenges from those with values and principles very different from ours.”

The prime minister enumerated a range of regional and global changes, including those from North Korea, China and Russia.

“There exists an imminent danger of nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons proliferation in East Asia: North Korea’s nuclear and missile program as a direct threat,” he said. “The issue of abductions by North Korea remains a critical issue.”

He added that Pyongyang’s provocations have an impact “beyond the region,” and that its export of ballistic missiles to Russia has increased the suffering of Ukrainian people.

Kishida took a swipe at China’s military actions.

“China’s current external stance and military actions present unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge not only to the peace and security of Japan, but to the peace and stability of the international community at large,” he said.

“While such a challenge from China continues our commitment to upholding a free and open international order based on the rule of law as well as peace will continue to be a defining agenda going forward.”

The prime minister also touched on “economic coercion” in a thinly veiled criticism of China’s policy.

“There are growing cases of economic coercion and so-called debt trap diplomacy whereby the economic dependency of nations is exploited and weaponized.”

He railed against what he called Russia’s “unprovoked and brutal war of aggression” against Ukraine.

“As I often say, Ukraine of today may be the East Asia of tomorrow,” he said.

He pointed out that Moscow continues to threaten the use of nuclear weapons, which he said has contributed to “worldwide concern that yet another catastrophe by nuclear weapon use is a real possibility.”

“In this reality, close coordination between Japan and the U.S. is required more than ever to ensure that the deterrence (of our allies) remains credible and resilient,” he said.

Throughout the address, Kishida recognized America’s heavy burden for its leadership role and stressed Japan’s willingness to work with the U.S. “side by side.”

“I am here to say that Japan is already standing shoulder to shoulder with the U.S.,” he said. “You are not alone. We are with you.”

Japan has steadily been pursuing a greater role in global security as seen in its decisions to double its defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product in fiscal year 2027, adopt “counter-strike” capabilities and ease arms export restrictions in a move away from its strictly defense-oriented policy.