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Japan comments on even stronger alliance with US

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the nations will work towards a ?free and open? Indo-Pacific

Japan seeks to strengthen its military ties with the US, the country's prime minister, Fumio Kishida, has said ahead of a visit to Washington. His statement came amid tensions between the US and China over Taiwan and as North Korea has been ramping up missile tests.

"We will show to the rest of the world an even stronger Japan-US alliance, which is a lynchpin of Japanese security and diplomacy," Kishida told reporters on Wednesday, as quoted by the Associated Press. "We will also show our further cooperation toward achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific."

Kishida will meet with President Joe Biden in Washington on January 13.

According to the White House, the leaders will discuss tensions with China and North Korea, as well as Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

"President Biden will reiterate his full support for Japan's recently released National Security Strategy, its presidency of the G7, and its term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council," White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement on Tuesday.

Tokyo revised its National Security Strategy, the country's main military planning document, last year to include "counterstrike capabilities." Kishida argued at the time that Japan's existing missile defenses needed to be upgraded to meet "threats" coming from North Korea and China.

In December, Japan adopted a record $51 billion draft defense budget for fiscal year 2023. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has also promoted the idea of revising Japan's post-World War II pacifist constitution. The document, adopted under the auspices of the US, technically bans the country from using force or maintaining a standing army. Then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in 2017 that Tokyo should make the status of its self-defense forces more "explicit."

The US has around 55,000 military personnel stationed in bases across Japan. Washington and Tokyo also hold multiple joint exercises every year. In March, the Japanese government approved a plan to spend $8.6 billion over the course of five years to support US military facilities in the country.