Kamala Harris in Japan amid protests against slain ex-prime minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral


Vice President Kamala Harris landed in Japan on Monday on a visit to Asia where she will meet with officials in Tokyo and then South Korea later this week. First up was a several-day visit to Tokyo for a memorial service in honor of the former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Harris is leading the US delegation to Tuesday’s state funeral for Abe, who, after serving as prime minister for nine years from 2006 to 2020, was shot and killed while delivering a campaign speech in July. In addition to paying respects on behalf of President Biden and the broader American population, Harris’ visit aims to “reaffirm the United States’ commitment to our allies in an increasingly complex security environment” and “deepen our overall engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.” “said a senior administration official on Friday news briefing.

Not long after landing, Harris met with current Japanese Prime Minister Fumi Kishida. The two spoke briefly to reporters before leaving behind closed doors, with Harris saying she was sad to be in the country under such difficult circumstances, referring to Abe’s death, but happy to be there to honor the life and legacy of the slain leader.

Harris described the Japan-US alliance as a “cornerstone” for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and vowed that the US would continue to stand behind Japan.

The vice president is expected to face controversy during the trip, as the Japanese government-backed funeral for Abe has sparked public backlash and protests. Last week, an elderly man allegedly set himself on fire near the prime minister’s Tokyo office in an apparent gesture against the memorial plans, according to officials and media. More demonstrations are expected to take place in the coming days.

US Vice President Harris travels to Japan and South Korea
Vice President Kamala Harris boards Air Force 2 on September 25, 2022 for a trip to Japan and South Korea from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.


US allies are trying to clarify whether Mr Biden would do so after mixed reports send troops to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion, a potential conflict that could quickly engulf the rest of the region. There is the potential for further provocations from North Korea, which tested a missile shortly before Harris left Washington on Sunday.

Meanwhile, South Korea and Japan are moving toward a reconciliation that would heal some of the wounds from World War II, with the U.S. cautiously trying to push the process along. And there is anger over a new US law that makes electric vehicles made outside North America ineligible for subsidies.

But in Japan, even Abe’s state funeral on Tuesday is itself a sensitive issue, as such memorials are not common and the late leader’s legacy remains contested. Abe, a conservative nationalist in a country that embraced pacifism after World War II, was assassinated nearly three months ago with a homemade firearm.

The controversy has politically weakened Japan’s current prime minister, Kishida, while he is in government plans to advance Abe’s goal strengthening the country’s military.

If Japan goes ahead with its proposed military spending, it will have the world’s third-largest defense budget in the coming years as tensions between China and the United States over Taiwan rise. The island is a self-governing democracy, but Beijing considers it part of its territory and has pledged to reunite it with the mainland.

Police are investigating the scene where a man who protested the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set himself on fire.
Police and firefighters investigate the scene where a man set himself on fire during a protest against the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 21, 2022 in Tokyo, Japan.

KYODO via Reuters

Harris, who will lead a delegation of current and former US officials to the funeral, plans to spend three nights in Tokyo. Meetings with South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanes were also expected. Harris was also scheduled to meet with Japanese business leaders as the U.S. seeks to expand computer chip production and visit U.S. sailors serving on a U.S. destroyer at a nearby naval base.

Belongs to the Vice President second trip to Asia since taking office in January 2021.

On a stopover in South Korea, she intends to see President Yoon Suk Yeol and hold a roundtable discussion with leading women — a touchy subject in a country where Yoon has faced criticism for his male-dominated government.

Relations between South Korea and Japan remain strained due to the legacy of Japanese aggression during World War II. Koreans are demanding reparations for forced labor and sexual slavery that occurred when Japan occupied their country.

Kishida and Yoon announced at the United Nations on Thursday that they would accelerate their work to mend the relationship between their two countries.

Mr Biden has met with each leader separately and the US is eager to see how the two allies resolve their issues as they seek a united front against China.

Taiwan remains a flashpoint and tensions have been rising in recent months.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi he visited Taiwan in August, which outraged Beijing, which responded by holding military exercises. Although Chinese leaders have said they are seeking a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, the drills are a reminder of the possibility that Beijing could use force.

China has also fired missiles into waters near some of Japan’s southern islands, a reminder that any conflict over Taiwan would be a threat to other countries as well.

The US has 55,000 troops based in Japan, more than half of them on the southern island of Okinawa. Earlier this month, Okinawa re-elected a governor who is calling for a reduction in the US presence there.

Mr. Biden said in a recent “60 Minutes” interview that the U.S will send his own troops to defend Taiwan if China invaded. But there is no formal defense treaty with Taiwan, and administration officials have repeatedly said Mr Biden’s comments did not reflect a change in policy, muddying the waters over exactly what the US would do.

President Joe Biden will address the United Nations General Assembly on September 21, 2022.

CBS News

“It’s ambiguous,” said Ja-Ian Chong, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore. “But if it’s strategically ambiguous, I don’t know.

More controversy awaits Harris in South Korea, where there is outrage over new US rules that make electric cars made outside North America ineligible for US government subsidies. The policy was included in the Inflation Reduction Act, a landmark piece of legislation that includes nearly $375 billion for climate change initiatives.

Yoon, South Korea’s recently elected president, spent his first few months in office emphasizing his country’s close ties to the US, but now officials are expressing a sense of betrayal. They want the rules delayed until 2025, when Korean automaker Hyundai plans to complete a new factory in Georgia.

Yoon’s government is also considering whether to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the law, which it says potentially violates trade rules and an agreement between the two countries.

South Korean officials are also looking to work with European nations such as Germany and Sweden, which they say share similar concerns about their electric vehicles being exported to the US, to put more pressure on Washington over “discriminatory” subsidy withdrawals.

The dispute is an uncomfortable sequel for Mr. Biden a trip to Seoul earlier this year, when he celebrated Hyundai’s plans to invest $10 billion in the US. About half of that money is for the Georgia plant.



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