US President Joe Biden on Monday launched a new regional economic plan involving 12 Indo-Pacific states. The announcement of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF, came during Biden's visit to Japan, while on his first trip to Asia since taking office.
"The future of the 21st Century economy is going to largely be written in the Indo-Pacific — in our region," Biden said at the launch event in Tokyo, after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo. "We're writing the new rules."
What is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity?
The program seeks to integrate partners with agreed standards in the areas of digital economy, supply chains, clean energy infrastructure and anti-corruption measures. But it does not extend to seeking to negotiate tariffs or ease market access.
The US had planned to join the more extensive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), drafted in 2015, but former President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the plan in 2017 — ultimately leading to the collapse of the entire proposal.
Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam will be part of the new group.
The countries said in a joint statement that the pact will help them collectively "prepare our economies for the future" following the coronavirus pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Taiwan had made it clear it would like to be a part of the IPEF, but US National Security advisor Jake Sullivan said before Biden's trip that Taipei would not be one of the countries involved. Selecting Taiwan would have been sure to upset China, which demands countries do not grant full diplomatic recognition to Taipei.
US-Japan alliance 'a cornerstone of peace and prosperity' — Biden
While in Tokyo, Biden also assured his "good friend" Kishida that the US was committed to Japan's defense, amid simmering tension with China and the broader backdrop of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Kishida said he was "absolutely delighted" to welcome Biden on his first trip to Asia as president.
"The US-Japan alliance has long been the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific," Biden said.
A White House statement said the two nations were "committed to work closely together to address security challenges." They met to "advance cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues, added the statement.
The two leaders met at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, where Kishida hosted a formal state welcome for Biden including a white-clad military honor guard and band in the front plaza. Biden also met with Emperor Naruhito on Monday morning.
US pledges to defend Taiwan from China
Biden also said the US would defend Taiwan militarily, if China were to invade.
"We agreed with the One China policy, we signed on to it... but the idea that it can be taken by force is just not appropriate," he said.
The US president pointed to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, saying that sanctions against Russia should be continued "in many ways" to send a right message to China over Taiwan.
Kishida also commented that Russia's war on Ukraine "undermines the foundation of global order."
Quad group meeting on Tuesday
Biden and Kishida will also meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and newly-elected Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for a meeting of the so-called Quad group.
Of the four, India is the only one who has not openly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine or cut trade ties with the country. Modi and Biden are to meet separately on Tuesday in Japan for one-on-one talks.
Prior to this, Biden was on a three-day visit to South Korea. US officials describe Japan and South Korea as linchpins in Washington's pushback against rising Chinese commercial and military power, as well as partners in a Western-led alliance to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
The five-day Asia tour also comes amid fears of North Korea possibly testing a nuclear missile or bomb. "If North Korea acts, we'll be prepared to respond. If North Korea doesn't act, North Korea has the opportunity, as we've said repeatedly, to come to the table," US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters earlier.
kb,tg/msh (AP, Reuters)