Biden to host Japan PM Kishida, Philippines President Marcos for White House summit

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Japan's Prime Minister and President of the Liberal Democratic Party Fumio Kishida delivers a speech during the party's convention in Tokyo Sunday, March 17, 2024. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

WASHINGTONPresident Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for a White House summit next month amid growing concerns about North Korea's nuclear program, provocative Chinese action in the South China Sea and differences over a Japanese company's plan to buy an iconic American steel company.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in a statement on Monday said the first-ever U.S.-Japan-Philippines leaders’ summit is an opportunity to highlight the countries’ “growing economic relations, a proud and resolute commitment to shared democratic values and a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific."

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The three leaders have no shortage of issues to discuss.

The announcement came as North Korea's state media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised a live-fire drill of nuclear-capable “super-large” multiple rocket launchers designed to target South Korea’s capital. The North Korean claim followed the South Korean and Japanese militaries reporting on Monday that they had detected North Korea firing multiple short-range ballistic missiles toward waters off its eastern coast, adding to a streak of weapons displays that have raised regional tensions.

The U.S.-Japan relationship is facing a rare moment of friction after Biden announced last week that he opposes the planned sale of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel of Japan. Biden argued in announcing his opposition that the U.S. needs to “maintain strong American steel companies powered by American steelworkers.”

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.

Meanwhile, long-running Philippines-Chinese tensions have come back into focus this month after Chinese and Philippine coast guard vessels collided in the disputed South China Sea.

The Chinese coast guard ships and accompanying vessels blocked the Philippine coast guard and supply vessels off the disputed Second Thomas Shoal and executed dangerous maneuvers that caused two minor collisions between the Chinese ships and two of the Philippine vessels, Philippine officials said.

A small Philippine marine and navy contingent has kept watch onboard a rusting warship, the BRP Sierra Madre, which has been marooned since the late 1990s in the shallows of the Second Thomas Shoal.

China also claims the shoal lying off the western Philippines and has surrounded the atoll with coast guard, navy and other ships to press its claims and prevent Filipino forces from delivering construction materials to fortify the Sierra Madre in a decades-long standoff.

Close U.S.-Philippines relations were not a given when Marcos, the son and namesake of the former Philippines strongman, took office in 2022.

But both Biden and Marcos have thrown much effort into strengthening the historically- complicated relationship between the two countries, with the two leaders sharing concerns about aggressive Chinese action around the region.

A U.S. appeals court in 1996 upheld damages of about $2 billion against the elder Marcos’ estate for the torture and killings of thousands of Filipinos. The court upheld a 1994 verdict of a jury in Hawaii, where he fled after being forced from power in 1986. He died there in 1989.

The elder Marcos placed the Philippines under martial law in 1972, a year before his term was to expire. He padlocked the country’s congressional and newspaper offices, ordered the arrest of many political opponents and activists and ruled by decree.

The younger Marcos made an official visit to Washington last year, the first by a Philippine president in more than 10 years. The U.S. made the announcement of Marcos' coming trip to Washington as Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Manilla.

Jean-Pierre said that in addition to the leaders' summit Biden will hold one-on-one talks with Marcos. She said the leaders would discuss efforts to expand cooperation on economic security, clean energy, people-to-people ties, human rights and democracy.

Biden is set to honor Kishida a day before the leaders summit with a state visit. The White House announced the state visit in January.

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