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Biden, Japan PM to Hold Talks          01/21 06:11


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister 
Fumio Kishida will hold their first formal talks on Friday as the two leaders 
face fresh concerns about North Korea's nuclear program and China's growing 
military assertiveness.

   The virtual meeting comes after North Korea earlier this week suggested it 
might resume nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been paused for 
more than three years.

   North Korea's Kim Jong Un on Thursday presided over a Politburo meeting of 
the ruling Workers' Party where officials set policy goals for "immediately 
bolstering" military capabilities to counter what were described as the 
Americans' "hostile moves," according to the Korean Central News Agency.

   Both the U.S. and Japan are also concerned about China's increasing 
aggression toward Taiwan. China claims self-governing Taiwan as its own 
territory, to be annexed by force if necessary. In recent months, it has 
stepped up military exercises near the island, frequently sending warplanes 
near Taiwan's airspace.

   Japan remains concerned about China intentions in the South China Sea, where 
it has stepped up its military presence in recent years, and the East China 
Sea, where there is a long-running dispute about a group of uninhabited islets 
administered by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

   White House officials said the two leaders were also expected to discuss 
ongoing efforts in the COVID-19 pandemic and the brewing crisis in eastern 
Europe, where Russia has massed some 100,000 troops near its border with 
Ukraine. Biden earlier this week said he believed Russian President Vladimir 
Putin is likely to order a further invasion of Ukrainian territory but he did 
not think Putin wanted an all-out war.

   Japanese officials said Kishida, who is from Hiroshima, on which the U.S. 
dropped an atomic bomb at the end of the World War II, is eager to discuss a 
"world without nuclear weapons" during the summit.

   Biden and top aides have sought to rally the support of NATO partners and 
other allies to respond with harsh sanctions against Russia if it moves forward 
with military action.

   On Thursday, in preparation for the leaders' call, Biden's national security 
adviser Jake Sullivan and his Japanese counterpart, Takeo Akiba, held their own 
call to discuss North Korea, China and "the importance of solidarity in 
signaling to Moscow the strong, united response that would result from any 
attack" on Ukraine, according to the White House.

   Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also 
held virtual talks earlier this month with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa 
Hayashi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, where China's military maneuvering 
and North Korea's nuclear program were discussed.

   Friday's virtual meeting will be the first substantial exchange between the 
leaders since Kishida took office in October. The leaders had a brief 
conversation on the sidelines of a climate summit in Glasgow in November. Biden 
was the first leader to call Kishida, on the morning of his first full day in 

   Biden, who has sought to put greater focus on the Indo-Pacific amid China's 
rise as a world power, had built a warm relationship with Japan's last prime 
minister, Yoshihide Suga, and is hoping to build a similar rapport with Kishida.

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