Japanese PM Fumio Kishida talks tech cooperation with US as state visit begins

The first day of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s state visit to the United States focused on expanding cooperation on critical and emerging technology as the long-time allies aim to counterbalance China’s growing military and tech heft.

“Japan welcomes investments from the United States that push forward such cooperation in critical and emerging technology. The economic growth our country attains through your investments shall serve as the funding source of further investments into the United States by Japanese entities,” he said at a round-table conference with American business leaders on Tuesday at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

“So, through such mutual expansion of investments, our economies will become even more deeply tied and inseparable.”

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He spoke minutes after meeting with Microsoft’s vice-chair and president, Brad Smith, as the American tech giant announced a US$2.9 billion investment in its cloud and artificial intelligence infrastructure in Japan. This will be Microsoft’s largest investment since it established roots in the country in 1978.

Kishida praised Microsoft for making “significant contributions to the social implementation of generative AI in Japan through various initiatives”, according to a company press release.

Under the deal, Microsoft will provide AI skills to more than 3 million people and set up its first Asian research lab in Tokyo. The company will also work with Japan to strengthen cybersecurity resilience for the government, business and society.

Participants at the event included US chip manufacturer Micron’s CEO, Sanjay Mehrotra; aerospace giant Boeing’s defence chief Ted Colbert; and Gary Cohn, IBM’s vice-chairman, who served as chief economic adviser to former president Donald Trump.

Defence, diplomacy expected to top Biden-Kishida summit as China looms

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that the US, Britain and Australia were considering working with Japan under their Aukus trilateral security pact’s “Pillar II” stage.

Pillar II of Aukus deals with cooperation on advanced capabilities such as artificial intelligence, quantum technology, advanced network capabilities, hypersonic capabilities, electronic warfare and underwater capabilities.

During the round-table discussion on Tuesday, Kishida said that in areas like semiconductors, AI, quantum computing and biotech, it was “increasingly important for the two countries to build resilience” and drive growth for the global economy.

Referring to the Japanese chip manufacturing venture Rapidus, which is partnering with American tech firm IBM in the research and development of next-generation chips, he said: “There will surely be more such opportunities for collaboration between Japan and the United States.”

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right) meets Microsoft vice-chair and president Brad Smith during the US-Japan business conference on Tuesday in Washington. Photo: AP

Suzanne Clark, president and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, who spoke before Kishida at the conference, stressed that maintaining and strengthening the bilateral alliance was a primary goal of the business community.

“It’s a priority because the ties between the United States and Japan are based on shared values, freedom and democracy, free enterprise and open markets and the rule of law,” she said, describing the relationship as “the cornerstone of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific”.

She noted that trade between the two countries totalled more than US$280 billion and supported millions of jobs on both sides, and said that during this “complex moment” and “so much geopolitical uncertainty, US and Japan leadership on the world stage is needed more than ever”.

On Tuesday evening, US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will welcome Kishida and his wife, Yuko, at the White House, and on Wednesday will host a formal state dinner for them. Kishida is scheduled to speak at a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday.

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