U.S., Japan commit to new global military alliance, shared moon-landing project

By Chris Benson & Sheri Walsh
U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn to begin Kishida's official visit to the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Pool Photo by Jonathan Ernst/UPI
1 of 6 | U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during an arrival ceremony on the South Lawn to begin Kishida's official visit to the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Pool Photo by Jonathan Ernst/UPI | License Photo

April 10 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday announced a "historic" new military pact and cooperation on a joint space mission to send a Japanese astronaut to the moon.

"Our alliances are America's greatest asset," Biden said in the Rose Garden of the White House during a Wednesday afternoon press conference. "Our relationship with Japan is proof of that."


The United States and Japan committed to developing a network system for air and defense purposes in what Biden called "a new benchmark for military cooperation."

White House officials said the package of agreements are built on the United States' and Japan's "shared commitment to work with like-minded partners and multilateral institutions to address common challenges and to ensure a world that is free, open, connected, resilient and secure."


In announcing the bilateral defense and security cooperation between the United States and Japan, Biden -- who added that Kishida will visit a North Carolina Toyota plant Thursday -- said "our ties have never been more robust" as he noted that Japan is the top foreign investor in the United States just as Japan is the top investor in U.S. technologies.

Wednesday's strengthened alliance with Japan is based on the so-called Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, which Biden said "is stronger than ever."

"We affirm that our alliance remains the cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," administration officials said, adding that Biden "reiterated the unwavering commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan under Article V of the treaty, using its full range of capabilities, including nuclear capabilities."

The president said the U.S. relationship with Japan "is a beacon to the entire world" and "there is no limit what our people can do" as he highlighted investments in new student exchanges "to train the next generation of Japanese-American leaders," too.

"We are at crucial crossroads," Kishida said after Biden spoke. Kishida called the alliance between the two countries "immensely important," adding that "the international community stands at a historical turning point."


"Japan will always stand firm with the United States," said Kishida, Japan's prime minister since 2021.

Regional, global implications

Earlier, a senior Biden administration official said up until this point, America's relationship with Japan "was largely a regional alliance," but "now a global partnership" that "could be judged as, if not our most important global alliance, then among the most important."

The two leaders also discussed a shared support for a "sustainable ceasefire" in Israel's war against Hamas militants in Gaza.

"We're going to do all we can to protect Israel's security," Biden added.

Also announced on Wednesday, Japan will soon begin talks to possibly coordinate with the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom with intelligence sharing.

Japan and the United States will handle challenges on China together "through close coordination," according to the prime minister, who also said Japan will cooperate with China "on common challenges."

"The president and I confirmed the importance of such dialogue, as well," Kishida said during a question-and-answer session with journalists after their remarks.

Kishida -- the leader of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party -- said he envisioned a "stable Japan-China relationship" that he said he wanted to see "at all levels."


A former senior Biden administration aide on East Asia said that, if China attacks Taiwan "today," Japan and the United States "would struggle to forge a combined response."

"With truly operational commands in Japan, we would have a much better ability to coordinate military operations in real time," commented Christopher Johnstone, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Peace in the Indo-Pacific region must be "based on the rule of law," Kishida said ahead of Thursday's meeting between him, Biden and the Philippine's president. He called for further sanctions against Russia and help for Ukraine, as well.

Kishida -- who served previously as Japan's foreign affairs minister before a stint as defense minister -- said Ukraine "today may be east Asia tomorrow."

Biden called the U.S.-Japan relationship "a defense alliance" and that America seeks a better dialogue with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

But Japan, Kishida said, has made a "significant contribution to the U.S. economy."

Moon mission plans

Biden and Kishida committed to strengthening defense forces "and other initiatives" while Biden said the United States will help Japan land "the first non-American to ever land on the moon."

There have been "huge achievements" in the area of space travel, Kishida said. He noted his excitement over space travel at the dawn of its arrival during Kishida's younger years.


As for the Artemis space program, "I welcome the lunar landing by a Japan astronaut as the first non-U.S. astronaut" to land on the moon, said the Japanese prime minister, 66.

On Tuesday, NASA administrator Bill Nelson and Japan's Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Masahito Moriyama signed an agreement at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to advance human exploration of the moon.

"The quest for the stars is led by nations that explore the cosmos openly, in peace, and together. This is true for the United States and Japan under the leadership of President Biden and Prime Minister Kishida," said Nelson. "America no longer will walk on the moon alone."

Under the agreement, Japan will design, develop and operate a pressurized moon rover for crewed and uncrewed exploration. NASA will launch and deliver the rover to the lunar surface and will provide two opportunities for Japanese astronauts to land on the moon.

"With this new rover, we will uncover groundbreaking discoveries on the lunar surface that will benefit humanity and inspire the Artemis generation," Nelson added.

The pressurized moon rover will allow astronauts to travel farther for exploration and science. The mobile laboratory will accommodate two astronauts for up to 30 days as they maneuver near the lunar South Pole. NASA plans to use the rover on Artemis VII and subsequent missions.


"It was an honor to sign the historic implementing arrangement that will be long remembered as the symbol of the new era of Japan-U.S. partnership for the lunar exploration," said Moriyama.

While the specific details are expected to be worked out over the next few months between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Japanese Minister of Defense Kihara Minoru, it also comes as a three-way summit is planned to happen on Thursday with Philippines President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos.

"The first of its kind," Biden said Wednesday about Thursday's meeting and the growing alliance between the three countries amid escalating tensions with China.

The meeting between the two leaders come as a Wednesday night state dinner is planned to honor the Kishidas.

Strengthening defense capabilities, climate change, global diplomacy, "reaching new frontiers in space," as well as "fortifying people-to-people ties" were among the shared priorities as "the U.S.-Japan Alliance has reached unprecedented heights."

In a joint statement after their meeting outlining greater specifics of mutual goals, the White House said how "In this new era of U.S.-Japan cooperation, we recognize that global events affect the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific, and that developments in our shared region reverberate around the world."


Planting other cooperation

In addition, Japan has plans to help the U.S. with cherry blossom trees in a multi-year rehabilitation project around the Tidal Basin and West Potomac Park.

"These cherry trees, first gifted by the people of Japan to the United States in 1912, are an enduring reminder of the close bonds of friendship between Americans and Japanese," the White House said Wednesday ahead of that evening's state dinner.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk and the Japan's Minister of Education, Sports, Science and Technology, Masahito Moriyama, had unveiled a "new strategic partnership to accelerate the demonstration and commercialization of fusion energy," according to a release.

The Japanese delegation arrived in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday's announcement and events.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visits Washington

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden meet in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on April 10, 2024. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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