President Joe Biden on Friday sought to present a united front with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to counter an increasingly assertive China as the US leader held his first face-to-face White House summit since taking office.
The talks offered the Democratic president, inaugurated in January, a chance to work further on his pledge to revitalize U.S. alliances that frayed under his Republican predecessor Donald Trump.
China topped the agenda, underscoring Japan's central role in US efforts to face down Beijing. The two leaders addressed an array of geopolitical issues in a joint statement, including "the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait," a slap at Beijing's increased military pressure on the Chinese-claimed, self-ruled island.
"Today Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for the US-Japanese alliance and for our shared security," Biden told a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden, calling the discussions "productive."
"We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China and on issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as North Korea, to ensure a future of a free and open Indo Pacific."
Other pressing concerns at the talks included China's increased military movements near Taiwan, its tightening grip on Hong Kong and its crackdown on Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Suga said he and Biden agreed on the necessity of frank discussions with China in the context of Beijing's activities in the Indo-Pacific region.
In a strongly worded statement on Saturday, China's embassy in Washington said Beijing was "resolutely opposed" to the joint statement, and that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang were China's internal affairs.
In another swipe at China, Biden told the news conference the United States and Japan will invest together in areas such as 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, genomics and semiconductor supply chains.
The joint statement said the United States had committed $2.5 billion and Japan $2 billion to strengthen digital competitiveness including in 5G and beyond 5G networks.
At the White House news conference, Suga said he told Biden that he was committed to moving forward with the summer Olympic Games in Japan and that Biden offered his support.