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Missiles and Microchips: Biden Lands in Japan to Talk Russia, China

White House wants G7 unity against China and Russia - while worrying about the debt ceiling back home

IWAKUNI, JAPAN – MAY 18: Japan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kenji Yamada (L) looks on as U.S. President Joe Biden (R) salutes upon his arrival at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on May 18, 2023 in Iwakuni, Japan. Biden arrived in Japan to attend the G7 summit, which will take place in Hiroshima. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden arrived at a U.S. Marine air base in Japan Thursday for a Group of Seven (G7) summit that will be dominated by two countries that weren’t invited – Russia and China – and shadowed by the U.S. debt ceiling crisis back home. 

Biden’s first stop was a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Kishida's home city of Hiroshima. “When our countries stand together, we stand stronger and I believe the whole world is safer when we do,” Biden told reporters.

A longtime American ally, Japan has become more important to the U.S. as it seeks a more assertive global role and is viewed as a safe investment for microchip manufacturers amid fears that China might invade Taiwan, a global semiconductor powerhouse.

While the G7 nations – the U.S., Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Canada – will wrangle over a long list of economic and political issues, the summit is expected to be dominated by missiles, microchips – and U.S. fiscal solvency.

G7 agenda: Ukraine, Taiwan and microchips

Officials said the war in Ukraine would rank high on the agenda, as leaders look for new ways to squeeze Russia’s economy and enforce leaky sanctions imposed after its February 2022 invasion. “There will be discussions about the state of play on the battlefield,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One. “There will be discussions about the state of play on sanctions and the steps that the G7 will collectively commit to on enforcement in particular.” 

Semiconductors and supply chains will be another key part of the agenda, analysts said. The G7 members are keen to create new microchip factories in Japan and the U.S. as a hedge against conflict in Taiwan, Nikkei reported. Sullivan said the summit would also address Chinese “economic coercion” – China’s practice of blocking or delaying trade during political spats. China is the leading trading partner to more than 120 countries and the European Union.

As he reached Hiroshima, Biden continued to take fire for canceling planned meetings in Papua New Guinea and Australia after the summit in favor of returning home for high-stakes talks to avoid a catastrophic U.S. debt default.

While some Republicans attacked Biden for even attending the summit, Sullivan said critics had made too much of the canceled Pacific meetings. “I think there is a degree of fairly dramatic over-cranking in saying that pushing off a visit to Australia and PNG [Papua New Guinea] speaks to the fundamentals of American diplomacy at this time,” he said.

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