Japan will join the Indo–Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) proposed by President Joe Biden’s administration to push back against China’s growing economic influence in the region, a government official said May 18.
“We welcome the IPEF as an embodiment of active commitment by the United States to the Indo–Pacific region and thus we are positively considering our participation,” chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, according to Kyodo News.
But that does not mean Japan will stop pursuing Washington’s return to the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP), which former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in 2017, Matsuno said.
“We will continue to call for the United States to return to the TPP at the summit and other levels,” he remarked.
Other countries like South Korea, New Zealand, and Singapore have also expressed interest in joining the economic framework announced by Biden in October 2021.
Biden will launch the IPEF during his visit to Tokyo on May 22, according to the White House. The framework seeks cooperation in trade, supply chain resilience, infrastructure, decarbonization, taxation, and anti-corruption.
Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party had previously proposed that the government expand its defense budget to a level equivalent to 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“With the defense spending target of more than 2 percent of GDP for NATO nations in mind, our country also aims to realize that the budget meets a level necessary to fundamentally reinforce defense capabilities in five years,” the party stated in a draft proposal.
The country’s defense budget for the current fiscal year ending in March 2023 is 5.4 trillion yen ($42 billion), whereas its GDP in the previous fiscal year was 536.79 trillion yen ($4 trillion)
Biden left the United States May 20 for a six-day trip to South Korea and Japan, his first visit to the Indo–Pacific region as president, with South Korea being his first destination. He will also attend a Quad summit—involving the United States, Japan, India, and Australia—during his visit to Tokyo.
Reuters contributed to this report.