Japanese Prime Minister Kishida visited Joe Biden. Tokyo and Washington want to work together to prevent China's dominance in the Indo-Pacific.

Two politicians shake hands.

House Speaker Mike Johnson meets with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Photo: José Luis Magaña/ap

TOKYO taz | With the first mutual state visit in nine years, US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida ushered in a “new era” of bilateral cooperation in Washington. In particular, the two countries want to modernize their military command and control structures. Japan, a bitter enemy of the United States in World War II, is becoming America's closest global military partner. There is almost no trace left of the old post-war Japanese pacifism.

The United States will move some of its planning for military contingencies – such as a war with China over Taiwan – from Hawaii to Japan. Together with Australia, the two countries want to create an air, missile and defense architecture for the first time. The United States is also exploring the possibility of Japan joining the Aukus military alliance with Australia and Britain. Japanese forces will also conduct military exercises with the British for the first time.

The fact that their armed forces work together “seamlessly and effectively” is the alliance's “most significant improvement” since its founding more than 60 years ago, the US president said. The world is facing a “historic turning point,” Kishida seconded. Therefore, there is agreement to respond to the “challenges” posed by China and “resolutely defend the free and open Indo-Pacific.” Biden and Kishida also agreed to closer cooperation on semiconductors and artificial intelligence. To make matters worse, the American space agency NASA wants to take a Japanese man to the Moon.

The summit highlights the dramatic change in Japanese security policy under Kishida. Defense spending will increase by more than two-thirds to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2027. In 2024 alone, the defense budget will grow by one-sixth to the equivalent of 48 billion euros. Despite resistance from the anti-war coalition partner, the Komei Buddhist Party, Kishida implemented a widespread relaxation of arms exports, which had long been frowned upon. A fighter jet planned with Italy and Britain could be sold to other countries.

The rivalry between Japan and Russia goes back a long time

Remarkably, the soft-spoken, liberal Kishida is completing the change that his vocal, openly nationalist predecessor Shinzo Abe could only begin. But the Russian attack on Ukraine changed geopolitical thinking in Japan so fundamentally that, unlike during the Abe years, there were no protests. Kishida repeatedly warned that East Asia would be the “Ukraine of tomorrow.”

Japan's rivalry with Russia dates back to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904/5. But it is Russia's close alliance with China and North Korea that is ringing alarm bells in Tokyo. “Japan is no longer standing by while North Korea, China and now Russia try to change the status quo,” says Japanese expert Sheila Smith of the Council on Foreign Relations.

This image also includes the first trilateral summit between the US and Japan with Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday in Washington. Biden and Kishida want to support the Philippine president against China's territorial claims.

Earlier, the Japanese leader delivered a speech before the US Congress to present Japan as an important global partner of the United States in defending the democratic world. Kishida is also likely keeping in mind that Donald Trump could soon return to the White House and once again destroy the newly forged alliance.