Photo/Illutration U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a bilateral meeting at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on May 23. (AP Photo)

There is no doubt that China’s aggressive and largely secretive military buildup and its foreign policy agenda aimed at challenging the existing order are generating a lot of tensions in the region.

But simply taking a confrontational policy focused on military power in countering China’s expansion and seeking economic decoupling from the country under the pretext of economic security cannot help maintain peace and stability.

As one of China’s neighbors, Japan should try to persuade the United States to rein in its increasingly competitive stance toward China while exploring ways to ensure peaceful coexistence based on dialogue and efforts to build mutual trust.

U.S. President Joe Biden flew to Japan on May 22 and held his first full-fledged face-to-face talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on May 23. In their joint statement, Kishida and Biden condemned “Russia’s brutal, unprovoked, and unjustified aggression against Ukraine.”

The two leaders reaffirmed that Europe is not the only region facing challenges to the rules-based international order and pledged to promote the vision of “a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

We welcome Washington’s demonstration of its commitment to becoming actively involved in maintaining the order in Asia at a time when security in Europe is the focus of international politics. But we find it hard not to be worried about its approach to tackling the challenge.

This concern was underscored by Biden’s remarks concerning Taiwan in his joint news conference with Kishida.

Their joint statement said the two leaders “reiterated the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and “encouraged the peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues.” When asked if he was willing to use military force to defend Taiwan should it ever be attacked by China, however, Biden answered in the affirmative twice.

The successive U.S. administrations have adopted the so-called “strategic ambiguity” policy concerning this issue, designed to discourage both sides from taking any reckless action by refusing to make a commitment either way.

In line with this traditional policy, their joint statement said the two leaders’ “basic positions on Taiwan remain unchanged.” But Biden’s responses to the question are inevitably interpreted as signaling a major shift from this policy.

We cannot help but wonder how carefully Biden weighed the implications of sending out this message.

Kishida and Biden also agreed to beef up the deterrence and response capabilities of the bilateral security alliance. Kishida told Biden that Japan will consider acquiring the ability to strike enemy bases by saying his government will be open to “all options” and expressed his resolve to secure a significant increase in Japan’s defense spending.

Kishida also told Biden that Japan will join a new framework for economic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region just launched by the president and dubbed the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

There is absolutely no justification for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. But things could have been different if Western nations such as members of NATO had succeeded in building a new order involving Russia.

The war in Ukraine shows what could happen as a result of a strategy focused on containing a major power by force without effective efforts for two-way communication. There must be important lessons to be learned from the history of Europe over the past three decades.

Tokyo needs to step up its diplomatic efforts to revitalize its high-level talks with Beijing, which have been mostly in stagnation, and to build emergency maritime and air communication systems to prevent accidental armed clashes.

Even though Japan’s security alliance with the United States is the cornerstone of its foreign policy and the nation needs to steadily enhance its defense capabilities, Japan should have its own independent policy toward China, which goes beyond simply following the U.S. lead.

The Asahi Shimbun, May 24