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Prime Minister Kishida Carries Strong Message of Unity to Washington 

In an exclusive interview as PM Kishida heads to Washington, Noriyuki Shikata, Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs shares key themes and takeaways to look for.



Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his wife Yuko depart for the United States from Haneda Airport on April 8. (© Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

On April 8 (JST) Prime Minister Fumio Kishida left Tokyo for the United States. This is the first time in nine years that a Japanese PM travels on the invitation of a US President for an official visit. 

Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs Noriyuki Shikata sat down with JAPAN Forward to talk about what Mr Kishida expects in his meetings with President Joe Biden, the US Congress, multilateral meetings including the Philippines President, and the business community. 

Excerpts follow.

Noriyuki Shikata, Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs, on April 8, 2024 in Tokyo. (©JAPAN Forward by Arielle Busetto)

On US-Japan Relations

What can we expect from PM Kishida's US visit? 

We are at a historic crossroads in international society in light of developments such as Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Israel-Palestinian situation, and the challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. Prime Minister Kishida wants to strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law and secure the peace and prosperity of Japan and the Indo-Pacific. Solidifying our unity with the United States is a critical element of this. In that light, the Japan-US alliance is all the more important.

What can you share about the content of the US Congress address?

The Prime Minister spent his early childhood in the United States in Queens [New York]. Therefore, he might mention his personal experiences in American society in the 1960s. Also, when he was Foreign Minister, he worked very closely with his US counterpart and he attaches much importance to further deepening the Japan-US alliance. He also expects the US to continue its leadership role in international society, which is important to upholding democracy and other universal values. 

Japan also supports maintaining and strengthening the free and open international order based on the rule of law. 

PM Kishida is prepared to explain Japan's security and national security strategy as we upgrade our defense and counterstrike capabilities. [This will allow] Japan [to] play a larger role in peace and stability in the region

To achieve that aim, what themes will Kishida focus on?

First, he wants to confirm that US-Japan relations are based on the support of broad segments of society in both countries. It is not just by agreement among leaders but among our two peoples.  


Second, he wants to focus on friendship and trust. He wishes to confirm that Japan and the United States are global partners for the future, strengthening defense and security cooperation between the two countries.

Third, in terms of commercial ties, he hopes to announce broad-based cooperation between our two countries while maintaining competitiveness in the sophisticated technology areas. [His goal is to] overcome vulnerabilities in the supply chain and drive sustainable and inclusive economic growth together. This also has a bearing on the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Japanese and US flags hanging side by side on the Eisenhower Executive Office Building ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's state visit. April 5, 2024 (© REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

What areas of economic cooperation are high on PM Kishida's agenda?

Kishida is interested in promoting cooperation with the US in the field of semiconductors. One example is the emerging collaboration between Rapidus and IBM to realize the next generation of semiconductors. This also strengthens the supply chain. 

Second is cooperation between Japan and the United States in artificial intelligence (AI). We have been discussing the Hiroshima AI process among G7 members. [In addition,] Japan is developing the AI Safety Institute. 

Next, at number three is space cooperation, [for example] the Artemis program. There will be other areas such as cybersecurity and cooperation towards decarbonization. Especially related strategic commodities, and look for cooperation on policy measures.

Will he also touch upon the US Steel talks with Nippon Steel?  

PM Kishida's view is that there are ongoing communications between the [directly concerned] parties. He doesn't expect to take up this issue in his bilateral summit with President Biden. 

At the same time, the Japan-US alliance is stronger than ever. In the area of economic and trade relations, Japan is the largest investor in the United States. For example, Japanese companies have created 1 million jobs in the United States. 

Kishida expects that Japanese investment in the US will continue to expand. To solidify this kind of win-win trend, he is looking for collaboration with the US to promote a free and open economic order as well as cooperation on economic security.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Ferdinand Marcos shake hands after the joint press conference on February 9, 2023. (© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

On the Philippines and Regional Security

What can you share about expectations for the first-ever Japan-US-Philippines trilateral summit? 

Kishida intends to send a strong message of unity among the three countries toward realizing a free and open international order based on the rule of law. 

He also plans to touch upon the region's economic development. This has implications for the broader ASEAN region. He believes unity among the three countries will be conducive to ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. 


When the Prime Minister visited Manila in November 2023, [he and President Ferdinand Marcos] witnessed the signing of an Official Security Assistance (OSA) grant aid agreement from Japan to the Philippines. It was for a coastal radar system and the first such application of OSA. 

The agreement also explained that Japan will continue to strengthen cooperation [with the Philippines] on maritime security capacity building. In the foreign and defense ministers' meeting, the so-called 2+2, they also concurred on enhancing collaboration in such areas as cybersecurity and economics.

What does this collaboration suggest for ties with other countries in the region? 

Already Japan is supporting stronger maritime enforcement capacities in ASEAN countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Japan also supports a connectivity initiative, which includes not only the transportation sector, but also maritime and digital cooperation, and the development of human resources in other countries.

Is the Philippines-China maritime dispute also expected to come up in the trilateral summit? 

We are committed to freedom of navigation and overflight in both the East and South China Seas. During Kishida's visit to Manila, [the two leaders] reiterated their adherence to a rules-based approach in resolving competing claims in maritime areas. 

This should be done within the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to ensure peace, stability, and prosperity. Kishida highly appreciated that the Government of the Philippines has consistently complied with the Arbitral Tribunal regarding the South China Sea. In the trilateral, these issues could be taken up. 

On Global Peace and Prospery

PM Kishida is invited to the NATO Summit in Washington in July. What role does he see for Japan going forward? 

If he attends, it would be the third NATO Summit for PM Kishida. He first attended the Madrid summit two years ago, followed by the [2023 summit] in Vilnius. 

Right after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, PM Kishida decided to implement stronger sanctions against Russia. [Since then,] support for Ukraine has included economic and financial assistance. After holding the Japan-Ukraine Reconstruction Meeting on February 19, Japanese companies are also coming on board for various projects. These include energy, agriculture, humanitarian assistance, and the demining efforts for which Japan has included Cambodia. 

Japan is therefore closely collaborating with NATO members and welcomes regular meetings. Also, although not NATO members, the so-called "AP 4," which consists of Japan, Australia, South Korea, and New Zealand support NATO's efforts. 


As the Prime Minister has repeatedly mentioned, today's Ukraine could be tomorrow's East Asia. The European security landscape is inseparable from the Indo-Pacific. We welcome NATO members, including the United States and European members to be more proactively engaged in peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

Concretely, how does Japan plan to fulfil its role?

PM Kishida revised the National Security Strategy two years ago and it's being implemented. It includes a target of spending 2% of GDP on defense and acquiring counterstrike capabilities. That kind of defense effort complements NATO's efforts. It is conducive to peace and stability not only in the East Asian security landscape but also in a broader international order based on the rule of law.

Members of the Abduction Victims' Family Association and Rescue Association hand over their new policy statement to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on March 4. (© Sankei by Hideyuki Matsui)

On the Abductions by North Korea

Does Mr Kishida plan to seek support from the US on the abductions issue?

In his state visit to the United States, PM Kishida intends to have a frank discussion with President Biden regarding our response to North Korea. He expects to reconfirm the close coordination between Japan and the United States. 


Author: Arielle Busetto