Japanese Prime Minister Kishida addresses Congress amid skepticism about U.S. role abroad

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses a joint meeting of Congress.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Thursday as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) look on.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addressed U.S. lawmakers at the Capitol on Thursday, urging them to consider the importance of global commitments at a time of tension in the Asia-Pacific and deep skepticism in Congress about U.S. involvement abroad.

Kishida is in Washington this week visiting President Biden as the White House completes hosting each leader of the Quad — an informal partnership among the U.S., Japan, Australia and India that is seen as important to countering China’s growing military strength in the region. Kishida highlighted the value of the U.S. commitment to global security and offered reassurances that Japan is a strong partner.

On Capitol Hill, his audience included many Republicans who have pushed for the U.S. to take a less active role in global affairs as they follow the “America First” ethos of Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The Republican-controlled House has sat for months on a $95-billion package that would send wartime funding to Ukraine and Israel, as well as aid to allies in the Indo-Pacific including Taiwan and humanitarian help to civilians in Gaza and Ukraine.


President Biden welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the White House for talks on the security situation in the Pacific, and more.

April 10, 2024

“As we meet here today, I detect an undercurrent of self-doubt among some Americans about what your role in the world should be,” Kishida told Congress.

He sought to remind lawmakers of the leading role the U.S. has played globally since World War II. After dropping two nuclear weapons on Japan to end the war, the U.S. helped rebuild Japan, and the nations transformed from bitter enemies to close allies.

“When necessary, it made noble sacrifices to fulfill its commitment to a better world,” Kishida said of the U.S.

Japan has taken a strong role in supporting Ukraine’s defense against Moscow as well as helping humanitarian aid get to Gaza. It is also seen as a key U.S. partner in a fraught region where China is asserting its strength and North Korea is developing a nuclear program.

Satellite photos analyzed by the Associated Press appear to show China is constructing an airstrip on an island also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Aug. 16, 2023

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said in a floor speech Thursday, “The best way the House can heed Prime Minister Kishida’s words is to pass the national security supplemental as soon as possible, to approve defense funding not just for Ukraine but also for the Indo-Pacific.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell also said earlier this week that he hoped Kishida’s visit would underscore “that we’re in a worldwide situation here against the enemies of democracy — led by China, Russia and Iran.”


Kishida offered reassurances that Japan is also committed to global security and human rights. He said that since recovering from the “devastation of World War II,” Japan has transformed from a reticent ally to a strong partner “standing shoulder-to-shoulder” with the U.S.

The prime minister called China’s stance “unprecedented” and “the greatest strategic challenge, not only to the peace and security of Japan but to the peace and stability of the international community at large.”

A ‘ride-along’ with the Philippine coast guard reveals tense cat-and-mouse games with China in one of the world’s most fiercely contested seas.

May 2, 2023

Kishida was also attending a U.S.-Japan-Philippines summit on Thursday in another effort to bolster regional cooperation in the face of China’s aggression. The United Kingdom also announced Thursday that it would hold joint military exercises with Japan and the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific next year.

Beijing has pushed back strongly on those actions during Kishida’s visit.

Mao Ning, the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, said, “Despite China’s serious concerns, the U.S. and Japan attacked and smeared China on the Taiwan question and maritime issues, grossly interfered in China’s domestic affairs and violated the basic norms in international relations.”

Meanwhile, Kishida cast the future of the conflict in Ukraine as having far-reaching consequences. He emphasized that Japan has committed to providing Kyiv with $12 billion in wartime aid, including anti-drone detection systems.

The Philippines decries China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea, through which trillions of dollars in trade transit yearly.

April 27, 2023

“Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow,” Kishida told lawmakers, and later added: “Japan will continue to stand with Ukraine.”


The statements drew standing ovations from much of the chamber, but a group of hard-line conservatives remained seated. Other lawmakers skipped the speech, and Capitol staff filled empty chairs with congressional aides.

Those moments encapsulated the pressure that House Speaker Mike Johnson is facing as he searches for a way forward for the foreign security package. It will be a difficult task to navigate the deep divides among Republicans. Making matters worse for the Republican speaker, he is already facing the threat of being ousted from the speaker’s office.

In a statement after the address, Johnson praised the U.S. partnership with Japan and said, “We will not let tyrants disrupt the prosperity and security we all enjoy.”

Beijing’s aggressive South China Sea expansion shows its willingness to defy international laws for President Xi Jinping’s visions of power.

Nov. 12, 2020

Kishida, who was elected in 2021, arrived in Washington while facing political problems of his own in Japan. Polls show his support has plunged as he deals with a political funds corruption scandal within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The nation’s economy has also slipped to the world’s fourth-largest last year, falling behind Germany.

This is the first time a Japanese prime minister has addressed Congress since Shinzo Abe traveled to Capitol Hill in 2015. Kishida is the sixth foreign leader to address Congress during Biden’s presidency.

He relished the moment and highlighted his ties to the U.S. He told lawmakers how he spent his first three years of elementary school in New York City while his father worked there as a trade official. Lawmakers applauded and laughed as he recalled American pastimes like attending baseball games and watching “The Flintstones.”


“I still miss that show,” Kishida told them. “Although I could never translate, ‘Yabba dabba doo.’”

Groves writes for the Associated Press. AP writer Didi Tang contributed.