Biden meets Japan’s PM Kishida over shared concerns about China and differences on US Steel deal

President Joe Biden, far right, and first lady Jill Biden greeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, second from the left, and his wife Yuko Kishida, far left, upon their arrival at the White House Tuesday in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida began a much-anticipated visit to Washington on Tuesday that spotlights shared concerns about provocative Chinese military action in the Pacific and at a rare moment of public difference between the two nations over a Japanese company’s plan to buy an iconic U.S. company.

Kishida and his wife stopped by the White House Tuesday evening ahead of Wednesday’s official visit and formal state dinner as President Joe Biden looks to celebrate a decades-long ally he sees as the cornerstone of his Indo-Pacific policy. Kishida will be the fifth world leader honored by Biden with a state dinner since he took office in 2021.


The two shook hands and first lady Jill Biden embraced Kishida’s wife, Yuko. The foursome posed for a photo and briefly toured the grounds before heading to an upscale seafood restaurant, BlackSalt, for dinner.

The Bidens were presenting the prime minister with a three-legged table handmade by a Japanese American-owned company in Pennsylvania. The president was also gifting Kishida a custom-framed lithograph and a two-volume LP set autographed by Billy Joel. Jill Biden was giving Yuko Kishida a soccer ball signed by the U.S. women’s national team and the Japanese women’s national team.

Ahead of the White House visit, Kishida laid a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday and stopped by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and met with Microsoft’s vice chairman and president Brad Smith. Biden and Kishida on Wednesday will hold talks and take part in a joint news conference before Biden fetes the Japanese leader with the state dinner in the East Room.

The prime minister has also been invited to address a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday. He will be just the second Japanese leader to address the body; Shinzo Abe gave a speech to Congress in 2015.

The visit comes after Biden announced last month that he opposes the planned sale of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel of Japan, exposing a marked rift in the partnership at the very moment the two leaders aim to reinforce it. Biden argued in announcing his opposition that the U.S. needs to “maintain strong American steel companies powered by American steelworkers.”

Ambassador Rahm Emanuel, Biden’s envoy to Tokyo, sought Monday to downplay the impact of Biden’s opposition to the U.S. Steel acquisition to the relationship. Emanuel noted that in February the Biden administration approved a plan that would drive billions of dollars in revenue to a U.S.-based subsidiary of the Japanese company Mitsui for crane production in the United States.

“The United States relationship with Japan is a lot deeper and stronger and more significant than a single commercial deal,” said Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago, in a joint appearance at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies with Japan’s chief envoy to Washington. “As we would say in Chicago, you got to chill.”

Nippon Steel announced in December that it planned to buy U.S. Steel for $14.1 billion in cash, raising concerns about what the transaction could mean for unionized workers, supply chains and U.S. national security. Shigeo Yamada, Japan’s ambassador to Washington, declined to comment on whether Kishida would raise the Nippon-U.S. Steel deal with Biden.

Kishida at the U.S. Chamber said that American investments in Japan and vice versa would make the “economies more deeply tied and inseparable.” Smith, the Microsoft vice chairman, announced that the tech company was investing $2.9 billion in Japan over the next two years to expand its cloud computing and artificial intelligence operations there.

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