Politics

Biden, Japan's Kishida discuss Ukraine crisis, North Korean nuclear ambitions during virtual talks

Key Points
  • President Joe Biden met virtually with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday morning to discuss a range of regional security concerns as well as the ongoing crisis on Ukraine's shared border with Russia.
  • A senior administration official said that Kishida "made clear that Japan would be fully behind the United States" on taking strong action in response to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • The talks between Biden and Kishida also come on the heels of reports that North Korea is considering renewed tests of its nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.
President Joe Biden speaks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a call from the White House on Jan. 21st, 2022.
Courtesy: The White House.

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden met virtually with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday morning to discuss regional security concerns involving China and North Korea, trade issues, and the ongoing crisis on Ukraine's shared border with Russia.

The leaders agreed to meet in person later this year but concurred that an official visit to Japan would depend on health precautions during the coronavirus pandemic.

A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to share details of Biden's call, also said that the two leaders discussed the growing tensions caused by a Russian military buildup on its border with Ukraine. The official said that Kishida "made clear that Japan would be fully behind the United States" if it acted in response to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"We did not get into specific possible steps that would be taken in the event that we see these actions transpire," the official said, adding that the leaders promised to stay in touch as the situation develops.

For months, Russia has carried out an extraordinary deployment of forces and equipment to its border with Ukraine.

The buildup has evoked Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, which sparked an international uproar and triggered a series of sanctions against Moscow. The seizure of Crimea also led to Russia's removal from the Group of Eight, or G-8, referring to eight major global economies.

In the past two months, Biden has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin twice and warned of sweeping financial consequences if Moscow pursues further aggression. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has also warned that the alliance will respond swiftly in defense of Ukraine, which is flanked by four NATO member countries.

Wendy Sherman, U.S. deputy secretary of State, said last week that the Biden administration has also sought support from G-7 members on potential coordinated financial measures targeting the Russian economy.

Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.S. and the United Kingdom make up the Group of Seven, a coalition of the most advanced economies in the world. The European Union is also represented during G-7 meetings.

Earlier on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with his Russian counterpart in Geneva in hopes of deterring a potential invasion. The Kremlin maintains that it is not preparing for an attack.

Meanwhile, Russian officials have repeatedly called on the U.S. to prevent an eastward expansion of NATO, the world's most powerful military alliance.

Ukraine since 2002 has sought entry into NATO, where the group's Article 5 clause states that an attack on one member country is considered an attack on all of them.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov move to their seats before their meeting, in Geneva, Switzerland, January 21, 2022.
Russian Foreign Ministry | via Reuters

Nuclear threat

During the 90-minute meeting between Biden and Kishida the two also discussed threats posed by North Korea.

The discussion comes on the heels of reports that Pyongyang is considering renewed tests of its nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles.

North Korea has carried out four missile tests this month.

On Jan. 4, Pyongyang said it successfully conducted a test of a sophisticated hypersonic missile. Less than a week after that test, the North fired a ballistic missile from the northern province of Jagang. The missile landed in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, after traveling some 430 miles.

On Jan. 17, North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles from an airport in Pyongyang, South Korea's military said in a statement following the tests.

Last week, the Biden administration condemned the launches and imposed sanctions on eight people and entities for their work in developing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile-related programs for Pyongyang.

Under U.N. Security Council resolutions, all ballistic missile tests by North Korea are banned.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during an event celebrating the 76th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this undated photo released on October 11, 2021 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
KCNA | via Reuters

The missile tests, which follow a series of weapons tests in 2021, underscore third-generation North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's ambition to expand military capabilities amid stalled nuclear talks with the United States.

Under his rule, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.

"The President made clear that he would be working closely with South Korea and Japan on next steps to discourage possible provocations that might follow on," the official said, adding that Washington and Seoul remain open to diplomacy.

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