US, Japan, Philippines strike deals on defense, investment at leaders’ summit

April 12, 2024 - 9:49 AM
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U.S. President Joe Biden escorts Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to their trilateral summit at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2024. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. unveiled a wide range of agreements to enhance security and economic ties during meetings held at the White House this week.

Here are some of the most notable:

Military upgrade

Japan and the U.S. announced plans to upgrade their military alliance, including the U.S. military command in Japan and more joint development of defense equipment.

A joint summit statement said new military command-and-control frameworks would enable greater interoperability and planning in peacetime and during contingencies.

They also announced their intent to upgrade defense communications networks and to network air defense capabilities between the U.S., Australia and Japan to counter air and missile threats.

The defense plans will see the two sides establish a forum to identify areas for co-development and co-production of missiles and maintenance of U.S. warships and aircraft.

They will also establish a working group for fighter pilot training, including AI and advanced simulators, and co-development and co-production of jet trainers.

Aukus, South China Sea

Biden’s meeting with Kishida addressed Japan’s possible involvement in advanced capabilities projects of the AUKUS security pact. The U.S., Britain and Australia formed AUKUS in 2021 to push back against China’s growing influence.

A joint summit statement said the existing three AUKUS partners were considering cooperation with Japan in part of the plan that includes advanced capabilities and technologies across a range of areas, including quantum computing, undersea, hypersonic, artificial intelligence and cyber technology.

The joint statement highlighted “escalatory behavior” by China in the South China Sea. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday that more joint patrols can be expected in the South China Sea after drills by the United States, Australia, the Philippines and Japan last weekend.

Microsoft, AI

Microsoft MSFT.O said on Tuesday it would invest $2.9 billion over two years to expand its cloud and AI infrastructure in Japan.

Also on Tuesday, the countries announced four universities would partner on artificial intelligence research, funded by $110 million in private sector investment by NVIDIA NVDA.O Amazon AMZN.O, Softbank 9434.T Microsoft and other companies.

Space

Japan is hoping to land its first astronaut on the moon with the U.S. Artemis project that envisages returning humans there by 2026, as competition with Russia and China intensifies. The joint statement announced a shared goal for a Japanese national to be the first non-American to land on the moon in an Artemis mission.

Nuclear fusion and sustainable aviation fuel 

The two countries announced a joint partnership to accelerate development and commercialization of nuclear fusion. The project will focus on the scientific and technical challenges of delivering commercial fusion and expand work between U.S. and Japanese universities, national laboratories and private companies, the U.S. Department of Energy said.

Scientists, governments and companies have been trying for decades to harness fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun, to provide carbon-free electricity. It can be replicated on Earth with heat and pressure using lasers or magnets to fuse two light atoms into a denser one, releasing large amounts of energy.

Japan and the U.S. also agreed during the summit to support sustainable aviation fuel.

Bullet trains

The U.S. and Japan signaled support for a plan to build the first high-speed rail in the U.S. using Japanese bullet trains. The project would link the Texas cities of Dallas and Houston and is estimated to cost around $25-$30 billion but faces legal and political hurdles.

Philippines

The U.S. plans a Coast Guard joint patrol in the Indo-Pacific region in the coming year as well as joint maritime training activities like one scheduled “around Japan in 2025,” the countries said.

Washington will also place undisclosed “humanitarian relief commodities” at Philippine military bases, they said.

New investments were announced in undersea cables, logistics, clean energy and telecommunications. Facebook parent Meta META.O invested in a submarine cable system that would connect the U.S. with the Philippines.

Biden’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment backed a new Luzon corridor effort in the Philippines, aimed at infrastructure projects including ports, rail, clean energy and semiconductor supply chains.

— Reporting by Steve Holland, Jeff Mason, Trevor Hunnicutt, David Brunnstrom, Tim Kelly; Editing by Heather Timmons, Cynthia Osterman and Chizu Nomiyama