Tags: japan | prime minister | fumio kishida | congress

Japan PM: Ukraine Needs US Support

Japan PM: Ukraine Needs US Support
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol on April 11, 2024 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Friday, 12 April 2024 08:11 AM EDT

Ukraine risks collapsing under Russia's onslaught without U.S. support, a disaster that could embolden China and spark a new crisis in East Asia, Japan's prime minister told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday, urging them to overcome "self-doubt" about the country's role on the world stage.

In the first speech to a joint meeting of Congress by a Japanese leader in nine years, Fumio Kishida urged Americans not to doubt the country's "indispensable" role in world affairs, and said Tokyo was undertaking historic military upgrades to support its ally.

He spoke amid deep divisions in U.S. politics over the country's role on the world stage in a presidential election year, including in the House of Representatives chamber where he gave his address.

President Joe Biden's request for $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, which passed the Democratic-led Senate with 70% support in February, has been stalled in the Republican-controlled House as Speaker Mike Johnson has refused to allow a vote.

"I want to address those Americans who feel the loneliness and exhaustion of being the country that has upheld the international order," Kishida said.

"The leadership of the United States is indispensable. Without U.S. support, how long before the hopes of Ukraine would collapse under the onslaught from Moscow? Without the presence of the United States, how long before the Indo-Pacific would face even harsher realities?"

Addresses to joint meetings of the Senate and House are an honor generally reserved for the closest U.S. allies, typically no more than once or twice a year. The last was by Israeli President Isaac Herzog on July 19, 2023.

Kishida is only the second Japanese prime minister ever to address a joint meeting, after Shinzo Abe on April 29, 2015.

His remarks were greeted several times by standing ovations, especially as he recounted the years of his childhood spent in New York and close Japanese-U.S. ties.

Kishida said the world was at a "historic turning point," with freedom and democracy under threat, emerging countries holding more economic power and climate change and rapid advances in artificial intelligence disrupting peoples' lives.

He also warned about North Korea's nuclear program and exports of missiles supporting Russia's war in Ukraine. But the biggest challenge the world faces comes from China, he said.

"China's current external stance and military actions present an 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," Kishida said. "Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow."

Japan has consistently raised concerns about Chinese military activity close to its islands and neighboring Taiwan.

Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has raised its alert level since Russia invaded Ukraine, wary of the possibility Beijing might make a similar move on the island, though it has reported no signs this is about to happen.

To stress the importance of Taiwan, Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, brought Taiwan's Representative to the United States, Alexander Yui, as his guest for Kishida's speech.

Asked about the speech at a press briefing on Friday, China's foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Japan was "playing up" security threats and "discrediting" its neighbors and that Beijing had lodged "solemn representations" with Tokyo.

Despite deep-rooted reservations in Japan about its militaristic past, Kishida said the country was embarking on a major shift in its defense posture to support U.S. efforts to ward off current threats.

"Japan has changed over the years. We have transformed ourselves from a reticent ally, recovering from the devastation of World War II, to a strong, committed ally, looking outward to the world," he said.

Japan's pacifist constitution, adopted after its defeat in World War Two, prohibits it waging war or maintaining the means to do so. But successive administrations have chipped away at that restraint, and plans unveiled at the end of 2022 to significantly beef up the military may soon see Japan become the world's third biggest military spender.

Kishida and Biden on Wednesday unveiled plans for military cooperation and projects ranging from missiles to moon landings, strengthening their alliance with an eye on countering China and Russia.

"On the spaceship called 'Freedom and Democracy,' Japan is proud to be your shipmate. We are on deck, we are on task. And we are ready to do what is necessary," Kishida said. 

© 2024 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


GlobalTalk
Ukraine risks collapsing under Russia's onslaught without U.S. support, a disaster that could embolden China and spark a new crisis in East Asia, Japan's prime minister told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday, urging them to overcome "self-doubt" about the country's role on the world stage.
japan, prime minister, fumio kishida, congress
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2024-11-12
Friday, 12 April 2024 08:11 AM
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