Japan’s Fumio Kashida stresses Ukraine aid, US world role in speech to Congress

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(WASHINGTON) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday addressed a joint meeting of Congress, where he praised U.S. leadership on the world stage as “indispensable.”

Kishida is in Washington this week as the U.S. looks to strengthen relationships with allies in the Indo-Pacific amid the mutual threat from China, North Korea and Russia.

During his speech to lawmakers, Kishida warned about such threats as he looked to reassure Americans he said were experiencing “self-doubt” and exhaustion in upholding “international order.”

“As I often say, Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow,” the prime minister said.

“Without U.S. support, how long before the hopes of Ukraine would collapse under the onslaught from Moscow?” he asked. “Without the presence of the United States, how long before the Indo-Pacific would face even harsher realities?”

His remarks prompted applause, though notably some Republicans did not join in, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Kishida’s remarks toward Ukraine skeptics come as U.S. aid to the war-torn ally as it fights Russia’s invasion is stalled in a political fight on Capitol Hill.

It has been more than a year since Congress approved aid for Ukraine.

The Senate in February passed a $95 billion foreign aid package that includes nearly $60 billion in funds for Ukraine, but the legislation has yet to be taken up in the Republican-controlled House, where some hard-line conservatives are opposed to sending any more money to Ukraine.

Speaker Mike Johnson previously said the House would act on Ukraine funding with “innovations” when lawmakers returned from recess this week. But as of Wednesday, there was still little sign of progress on how to move forward.

“There are a lot of different ideas on that, as you know, it’s a very complicated matter in a very complicated time,” Johnson said Wednesday at a press conference alongside other GOP leaders. “And the clock is ticking on it, and everyone here feels the urgency of that. But what’s required is that you reach consensus on it and that is what we are working on.”

Kishida met with Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries just before delivering remarks at the joint meeting of Congress.

In his speech, Kishida noted his nation announced $12 billion for Ukraine as part of NATO’s aid package and imposed strong sanctions against Russia.

“Japan will continue to stand with Ukraine,” he said.

The prime minister also met with President Joe Biden and administration officials in the Oval Office on Wednesday. The two leaders discussed defense partnerships and economic cooperation as well as the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

At a joint press conference in the Rose Garden afterward, Biden again called for Johnson to bring Ukraine aid up for a vote after praising Japan for its assistance.

“The war in Ukraine comes to an end by the House leader allowing a vote,” Biden said. “There’s overwhelming support for Ukraine among the majority of Democrats and Republicans. There should be a vote now.”

In this visit, Biden and Kishida announced new initiatives to upgrade military command and control frameworks and a forum for co-development and co-production of missiles as well as new space agreements and climate initiatives.

The red carpet was rolled out for Kishida on Wednesday night as the Bidens hosted a state dinner at the White House. There, Biden and Kishida toasted to messages of unity.

On Thursday, Biden will host a trilateral meeting with Kishida and Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. A senior official told ABC News the meeting will allow the three men to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” as China exerts “extraordinary pressure” in the South China Sea.

Kishida, who discussed his strong connection to the U.S. dating back to part of his childhood spent in Queens, told lawmakers that Japan is “ready to do what’s necessary” to help the U.S. protect democracy and deter aggression.

“You are not alone. We are with you,” the prime minister said.

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