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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s upcoming address to U.S. lawmakers is aimed at emphasizing the importance of maintaining a strong partnership between the two countries during a time of tension in the Asia-Pacific region. Kishida’s visit to Washington this week comes as the White House has concluded hosting each leader of the Quad, an informal partnership between the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India that aims to counter China’s growing military strength. The prime minister is expected to discuss the future of the relationship between Japan and the U.S. in his address to Congress.

Kishida’s address comes at a time when many Republicans in Congress have advocated for the U.S. to take a less active role in global affairs, following the “America First” approach of former President Donald Trump. The Republican-controlled House has delayed action on a $95 billion package that includes wartime funding for Ukraine and Israel, aid to Indo-Pacific allies like Taiwan, and humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and Ukraine. Despite the absence of direct funding for Japan in the package, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed hopes that Kishida’s visit will underscore the importance of uniting against common threats posed by countries like China, Russia, and Iran.

Japan has played a significant role in supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russia, facilitating humanitarian aid to Gaza, and serving as a crucial U.S. partner in the Asia-Pacific region, where China’s assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear program are ongoing security concerns. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized the importance of Kishida’s visit in strengthening the diplomatic and security relationship between the U.S. and Japan, building on decades of cooperation. Kishida’s attendance at a U.S.-Japan-Philippines summit also underscores efforts to enhance regional cooperation in response to China’s aggressive behavior.

In Congress, House Speaker Mike Johnson has delayed action on the foreign security package since its Senate passage in February but is now working to advance it in the coming weeks. However, he faces challenges in navigating deep divides among Republicans regarding support for Ukraine. Additionally, Speaker Johnson is facing the threat of being ousted from his role, adding to the complexities of advancing the legislation. Kishida’s visit to Washington coincides with his own political challenges in Japan, where his support has declined due to a political funds corruption scandal within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party and economic challenges facing the nation.

Kishida’s address to Congress will mark the first time a Japanese prime minister has done so since 2015 when former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke before lawmakers. His speech also highlights a continuing trend during President Joe Biden’s administration, as he will be the sixth foreign leader to address Congress. The address underscores the significant role that Japan plays as a close ally critical to both the national and economic security of the U.S., particularly as both countries navigate complex security challenges posed by China and North Korea in the Asia-Pacific region.

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