Kishida to Discuss Pacific Tension, US Role in Asia-Pacific When He Addresses Congress

April 11, 2024 by No Comments

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will address U.S. lawmakers on Thursday to emphasize the importance of maintaining during a period of tension in the Asia-Pacific region and skepticism in Congress about U.S. involvement abroad. Kishida’s visit to Capitol Hill comes after his meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington this week, during which the White House hosted each leader of the Quad, an informal partnership between the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India that is considered crucial for countering China’s growing military power in the region. Kishida is expected to discuss the future of the relationship between Japan and the U.S. He will address a significant number of Republicans, who have advocated for the U.S. to adopt a less active role in global affairs, adhering to the “America First” ideology of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The Republican-controlled House has delayed action on a $95 billion package for months that would provide wartime funding to Ukraine and Israel, as well as assistance to allies in the Indo-Pacific like Taiwan and humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza and Ukraine. While the package does not include any direct funding for Japan, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell stated earlier this week that he hoped Kishida’s visit would highlight “that we’re in a worldwide situation here against the enemies of democracy — led by China, Russia and Iran.” Japan has provided strong support for Ukraine’s defense against Moscow and has also facilitated the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. It is also regarded as a key U.S. partner in a volatile region where China is asserting its authority and North Korea is developing a nuclear program. “Japan is a close ally — critical to both our national and economic security,” stated Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “This visit will continue to deepen the diplomatic and security relationship between our two countries and build on the strength of decades of cooperation.” Kishida was also attending on Thursday in another effort to bolster regional cooperation in the face of China’s aggression. In Congress, House Speaker Mike Johnson has held up the foreign security package since the Senate passed it in February but is now working to advance it in the coming weeks. Navigating the deep divisions within the Republican party on support for Kyiv will be a challenging task. The Republican speaker is already facing the threat of being removed from his position, which further complicates matters. Kishida, who was elected in 2021, arrives in Washington amidst his own political challenges. As he deals with a corruption scandal involving political funds within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, polls indicate that his support has plummeted. Last year, the country’s economy dropped to the fourth-largest in the world, falling behind Germany. Since former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed Capitol Hill in 2015, Kishida will be the first Japanese prime minister to do so. During Biden’s presidency, Kishida will also be the sixth foreign leader to address Congress.