Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has said that Japan will urge U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to focus on foreign as well as domestic issues, including maintaining rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, as the new U.S. leader prepares to take office in January.
Motegi said Monday he believes Biden will concentrate on domestic issues at the beginning of his presidency, adding that he expects the result of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election “not to be reversed” despite President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and his filing of lawsuits in several battleground states.
Former U.S. Vice President Biden set up a coronavirus task force a few days after declaring victory in the election, as the No. 1 economy grapples with the most infections in the world.
“Japan has a major challenge (in ensuring that) the United States remains committed to order in the Indo-Pacific region, climate change, security and other global issues,” he told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.
Under the “America First” banner, Trump pulled the country out of international agreements such as the Paris climate accord while implementing protectionist trade measures.
Motegi said Japan would likely play a key part in encouraging Washington to return to engagement in international issues as the deadly virus continues to roil the United States.
“Other countries have expectations for Japan” to play such a role, he said.
Japan has promoted a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” a concept it coined to push for free trade, the rule of law and freedom of navigation, part of a veiled counter to China’s rising military assertiveness in the region.
“Japan needs to resolutely prevent China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China seas by force,” Motegi said.
The concept formulated amid China’s attempts to expand its influence through military strength and economic persuasion has become widely accepted by Japan’s partners, with Trump even adopting it to refer to his administration’s own foreign policy in the region.
But it is unclear whether Biden will promote the strategy.
The United States is expected to continue its hard-line stance on China under Biden, reflecting growing anger at Beijing among the U.S. public and both Democrats and Republicans, Motegi said.
“Unfortunately, the U.S.-China frictions will not be resolved soon,” he said, although Biden may work more with China than Trump has on some issues such as climate change and global health.
On issues related to human rights, however, Biden could take a far tougher stance, Motegi said, including over Beijing’s handling of protests in Hong Kong against a national security law that critics say has undermined freedom in the semiautonomous territory and the treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
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