Japanese Prime Minister Kishida addresses Congress amid skepticism about the US role abroad

(Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida addresses Congress amid skepticism about the US role abroad


April 11, 2024

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addressed US lawmakers at the Capitol on Thursday, urging them to consider the importance of global commitments at a time of tension in the Asia-Pacific and deep skepticism in Congress about US involvement abroad .

Kishida is in Washington this week visiting President Biden as the White House completes the reception of each leader of the Quad, an informal partnership between the US, Japan, Australia and India seen as important to China’s growing military strength in against the region. Kishida emphasized the value of America’s commitment to global security and assured that Japan is a strong partner.

On Capitol Hill, his audience included many Republicans who have pushed for the US to take a less active role in global affairs as it follows the “America First” ethos of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. for months on a $95 billion package that would send war funding to Ukraine and Israel, as well as aid to Indo-Pacific allies like Taiwan and humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and Ukraine.

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As we meet here today, I sense an undercurrent of self-doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be, Kishida told Congress.

He sought to remind lawmakers of the leadership role the U.S. has played globally since World War II. After dropping two nuclear weapons on Japan to end the war, the US helped rebuild Japan, transforming the nations from bitter enemies into close allies.

When necessary, the country made noble sacrifices to fulfill its commitment to a better world, Kishida said of the US

Japan has played a strong role in supporting Ukraine’s defense against Moscow and helping humanitarian aid reach Gaza. It is also seen as an important American partner in a tense region where China is asserting its strength and North Korea is developing a nuclear program.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a speech Thursday: The best way for the House to heed Prime Minister Kishida’s words is to pass a supplemental national security bill as soon as possible and approve defense funding, not just for Ukraine but also for the Indo-Pacific. .

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also said earlier this week that he hoped Kishida’s visit would underscore that we are in a global situation here against the enemies of democracy led by China, Russia and Iran.

Kishida assured that Japan is also committed to global security and human rights. He said that since recovering from the devastation of World War II, Japan has transformed from a reluctant ally to a strong partner standing shoulder to shoulder with the US.

The Prime Minister called China’s position unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge not only to Japan’s peace and security, but also to the peace and stability of the international community as a whole.

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Kishida also attended a summit between the US, Japan and the Philippines on Thursday in a new effort to strengthen regional cooperation in the face of Chinese aggression. Britain also announced Thursday that it will hold joint military exercises with Japan and the US in the Indo-Pacific next year.

Beijing strongly pushed back on these actions during Kishida’s visit.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said that despite China’s serious concerns, the US and Japan have attacked and smeared China on the Taiwan issue and maritime issues, grossly interfered in its internal affairs of China and have violated basic norms in international relations.

Meanwhile, Kishida believes the future of the conflict in Ukraine will have far-reaching consequences. He stressed that Japan has committed to providing Kiev with $12 billion in war aid, including anti-drone detection systems.

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Today’s Ukraine can be tomorrow’s East Asia, Kishida told lawmakers, later adding: Japan will continue to support Ukraine.

The statements drew standing ovations from much of the audience, but a group of hardline conservatives remained seated. Other lawmakers skipped the speech and Capitol staff filled empty seats with congressional staffers.

Those moments sum up the pressure House Speaker Mike Johnson faces as he searches for a path forward for the foreign security package. Bridging the deep divisions among Republicans will be a difficult task. To make matters worse for the Republican speaker, he is already facing the threat of being kicked out of the speaker’s office.

In a statement after the speech, Johnson praised the U.S. partnership with Japan, saying, “We will not allow tyrants to disrupt the prosperity and security we all enjoy.”

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Kishida, who was elected in 2021, arrived in Washington while facing his own political problems in Japan. Polls show his support has fallen as he faces a corruption scandal involving political funds within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The country’s economy also fell to the fourth largest in the world last year, behind Germany.

This is the first time a Japanese prime minister has addressed Congress since Shinzo Abe traveled to Capitol Hill in 2015. Kishida is the sixth foreign leader to address Congress during Biden’s presidency.

He enjoyed the moment and emphasized his ties with the US. He told lawmakers how he spent the first three years of elementary school in New York City while his father worked there as a commercial official. Lawmakers applauded and laughed as he recalled American pastimes such as attending baseball games and watching the Flintstones.

I still miss that show, Kishida told them. Although I could never translate it, Yabba dabba doo.

Groves writes for the Associated Press. AP writer Didi Tang contributed.


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