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On Tuesday, June 28, 2022, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Sasakawa USA) hosted the virtual policy briefing, “Key Takeaways from President Biden’s Trip to Japan.” In this event, Ms. Katherine Monahan, Director of the Office of Japanese Affairs, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, at the U.S. Department of State (DOS), shared her analysis of President Biden’s meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the newly launched economic frameworks, the QUAD Summit meeting, and recommendations for bolstering U.S.-Japan relations. Her remarks were followed by a lively Q&A session touching upon various challenges and opportunities for the U.S. and Japan.
This discussion was presented by Sasakawa USA’s Policy Briefing Series and was held virtually via Zoom. Attendees included distinguished guests from the Washington, D.C. policy community along with members of academia, think tanks, and media, as well as current and retired members of the U.S. military and Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Dr. Satohiro Akimoto, Chairman and President of Sasakawa USA, provided introductory remarks, facilitated this event, and moderated the Q&A discussion.
President Biden’s Meeting with Prime Minister Kishida in Tokyo
Ms. Monahan began by outlining current U.S.-Japan relations which have been the cornerstone for security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region for over six decades. Ms. Monahan stated President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reaffirmed their close partnership at their meeting in Tokyo on May 23, 2022. President Biden is no stranger to Japan as he visited the country in 2011 to assess the bilateral disaster recovery plan known as Operation Tomodachi. During this visit, their Prime Minister Kishida invited President Biden to a tea ceremony during which the close personal connection between the two leaders was apparent. Ms. Monahan described President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida as having a strong rapport and coming together like “magnets” at multilateral meetings, which cameras subsequently captured when the two of them walked side-by-side at the G7 and NATO conferences.
In addition to personal ties, the two leaders at the Tokyo meeting affirmed that bilateral relations are much stronger, much deeper, and more important than ever, recapitulating their message from their previous virtual meeting in January 2022. They further affirmed peace, security, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region are crucial and the rules-based world order in the region is an indivisible component that destruction of such would have devastating impact around the world. Ms. Monahan then explained the Biden administration envisions the following goals in the U.S.-Japan relationship and to ensure peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond:
During the meeting, President Biden welcomed the Kishida cabinet’s commitment to bolstering Japan’s defense capabilities by substantially increasing its defense budget. The leaders further discussed deepening their economic, science, and technology ties. Ms. Monahan elaborated that science and technology cooperation entails protecting key technologies, cooperating on space programs, conducting cancer research, overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, preventing future pandemics, countering climate change, and collaborating on nuclear energy. The outcomes of the Tokyo meeting are summarized in the joint statement, the U.S.-Japan Competitiveness and Resilience (CoRe) Partnership factsheet and the U.S.-Japan Climate Partnership Fact Sheet.
New Economic Frameworks: EPCC and IPEF
On January 21, 2022, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida established the U.S. – Japan Economic Policy Consultative Committee, “EPCC” (pronounced “repic”) or the “Economic 2+2,” to strengthen the economic rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region and the world. On May 6, DOS and the Department of Commerce held the first vice-ministerial level EPCC meeting, for which Ms. Monahan was the master of ceremony. At this meeting, the two countries discussed closer cooperation on digital economy, supply chain resiliency, export controls, countering economic coercion and other key challenges of our time. With the meeting on May 23, President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida announced the first ministerial-level EPCC scheduled in July 2022. Details of the meeting are not public, but Ms. Monahan reassured that the two leaders are determined the U.S. and Japan will play active roles in addressing salient global challenges.
Ms. Monahan then moved on to explaining the official launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) on May 24 in Tokyo. Having 14 member states from the Indo-Pacific region, which covers 40% of global GDP, indicates the far-reaching ambition of IPEF and high expectations for renewed economic leadership by the U.S. Furthermore, IPEF, together with EPCC, creates a unique framework designed to tackle 21st century problems ranging from setting rules for digital economy; ensuring secure and resilient supply chains; supporting major investment in clean energy and transition to clean energy; and raising standards for transparency, fair taxation, and anti-corruption.
Ms. Monahan analyzed EPCC and IPEF are fruitful results of U.S.-Japan ties over the years which opened greater opportunities for both countries to realize their shared Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) vision.
The Quad Leader’s Tokyo Summit 2022
President Biden, Prime Minister Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Modi, and new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese convened the Quad Summit in Tokyo on May 24. This meeting assessed the progress of Quad initiatives such as the COVID-19 vaccine assistance, economic recovery, impact of climate change, prevision of humanitarian assistance, maritime security, securing emerging technology, counterterrorism, infrastructure coordination, and countering foreign disinformation. The four leaders reconfirmed their commitment to FOIP which is inclusive and resilient. Quad leaders further underscored the Quad’s main purpose to bring tangible goods and benefits to the region by maintaining democracy and the FOIP as their core values, strengthening their capabilities, staying committed to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, being unconstrained by coercion, supporting rule of law, acknowledging freedom of navigation and overflight, seeking peaceful resolution of disputes, standing up for territorial integrity, and recognizing the ASEAN’s centrality as the main pillar to regional engagement.
Ms. Monahan pointed out that Japan’s international role has strengthened recently now that the world sees Japan not only as a regional partner, but more as a global leader standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S., Europe, and other partners. For instance, as soon as Russia invaded Ukraine, Japan quickly showed its solidarity with the Ukrainian people defending and standing for their national sovereignty by imposing sanctions against Russia and welcoming Ukrainian exiles to Japan. Japan’s continuous condemnation of Russia since day one of the invasion is a clear indication that Japan is stepping up to become a global leader advocating for democratic values shared among various nations beyond the Indo-Pacific region. Ms. Monahan provided more examples of Japan’s leadership in the international community including Prime Minister Kishida’s visit to Europe for the NATO and G7 conferences and calling out atrocities committed by Russian troops in Bucha, Ukraine. With Prime Minister Kishida’s bold action, not only have Japanese people became aware of changing global dynamics, but also have alerted other nations that the invasion of Ukraine was no longer a regional conflict in Europe but a global issue threatening the world order.
Priorities for the U.S. Moving Forward
As a JET alumna, Ms. Monahan restated the importance of grass-root efforts in building healthy and lasting people-to-people connections between the U.S. and Japan which have fostered and sustained the bilateral relation. She then provided data on the accomplishments of these people-to-people ties:
It is clear that this two-way student mobility should be a priority for the two nations. Despite travelling setbacks caused by the pandemic, sustaining people-to-people exchanges, engaging in next generation leaders of these two countries, and instilling support and interest in U.S.-Japan relations are vital components of our future relations. Moreover, Ms. Monahan stressed that one cannot take current bilateral relations for granted. Certainly, the U.S.-Japan relationship is at an all-time high, but one cannot dismiss continuous efforts needed to maintain this healthy bond. One of the challenges in sustaining such ties is continuous efforts by our adversaries seeking to identify our weak spot such as economic ties and conduct malign activities which would divert our strong bonds.
An engaging Q&A with the audience followed Ms. Monahan’s remarks. Questions covered a wide range of topics including opportunities for business sectors, the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, U.S.-Japan-R.O.K. relations, Japan-Russia relations, U.S. Forces in Okinawa, more details on IPEF, and engagement with Southeast Asian countries. A brief summary of Ms. Monahan’s responses is below:
 “Japan-U.S. Joint Leaders’ Statement: Strengthening the Free and Open International Order,” The White House, May 23, 2022, Accessed July 21, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/23/japan-u-s-joint-leaders-statement-strengthening-the-free-and-open-international-order/.
 “FACT SHEET: The U.S.-Japan Competitiveness and Resilience (CoRe) Partnership,” The White House, May 23, 2022, Accessed July 21, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/23/fact-sheet-the-u-s-japan-competitiveness-and-resilience-core-partnership/.
 “FACT SHEET: U.S.-Japan Climate Partnership,” The White House, May 23, 2022, Accessed July 21, 2022, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/05/23/u-s-japan-climate-partnership-fact-sheet/.
Sasakawa USA is grateful to Ms. Monahan for sharing her analysis of President Biden’s visit to Japan in May 2022 and how this will impact the bilateral relations between the U.S. and Japan. Sasakawa USA also thanks the Q&A participants and attendees for joining us in this engaging discussion.
The summarized views of the speakers expressed herein are entirely the work of Sasakawa USA and do not represent the official positions of any of the speakers.
For more information about Sasakawa USA’s Policy Briefing Series, click here.