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Japan eyes debut of U.S. Indo-Pacific economic plan during Biden visit

New framework needs to balance inclusivity and standards, Japanese ambassador says

U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit to Japan later this month.   © AP

WASHINGTON/TOKYO (Reuters) -- U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Japan later this month is expected to coincide with the formal launch of a new U.S. economic strategy for the Indo-Pacific region, Japan's ambassador to Washington said on Monday.

Koji Tomita told a virtual event hosted by Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies that Japan and the United States had been working on the details of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which, he said, needed to strike a balance between inclusivity and high standards.

Asian countries are keen to boost ties with the United States, but have been frustrated by its delay in detailing plans for economic engagement with the region since former President Donald Trump quit a regional trade pact in 2017.

Biden, who is due to visit South Korea and Japan from May 20 to May 24, announced the plan for IPEF last year, and his administration's strategy for the Indo-Pacific region announced in February said the plan was to launch it in early 2022.

Tomita said Biden's visit would send a powerful signal that the United States remains focused on the Indo-Pacific in spite of the war in Ukraine.

"But this is not just a message. I think the visit will establish in very strong terms that Japan and the United States jointly are ready to play a leadership role in the economic and social development of the broader Indo-Pacific region," he said.

Tomita noted that Biden's visit would include a summit meeting of the Quad grouping of the United States, Japan, Australia and India, an important vehicle for that purpose.

"I'm expecting the visit will also coincide with the formal launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework initiative by the United States. And we are now trying to flesh out the ideas to be contained in this initiative," he added.

The U.S. ambassador to Japan, Rahm Emanuel, told the same event that the reaction of Asian countries to the Ukraine crisis helped show Russia and China that they cannot act with impunity when launching a war. He said Ukraine did not mean Washington could not maintain its focus on Asia.

"In fact, there's lessons taken from it that are being applied in real time here to the Indo-Pacific as a deterrent," he said, without elaborating.

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