Ceremony and controversy await Harris during his visit to Asia

WASHINGTON – Attending funerals on behalf of the United States is usually an easy task for a vice president, but Kamala Harris meets controversy at almost every turn when she visits Asia for the memorial honoring the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

American allies are seeking clarity on whether President Joe Biden would do so after mixed messages Send troops to defend Taiwan of a Chinese invasion, a potential conflict that could quickly engulf the rest of the region. There is potential for further provocations from North Korea, which fired a rocket as a test just before Harris left Washington on Sunday.

Meanwhile, South Korea and Japan are slowly getting closer a reconciliation that would heal some of the wounds left by World War II, with the US tentatively trying to move the process forward. And there’s resentment over a new US law that does EVs built outside of North America not eligible.

Even Abe’s state funeral Tuesday itself is a sensitive topic in Japan, where such monuments are uncommon and the legacy of the late leader remains controversial. Abe, a conservative nationalist in a country that embraced pacifism after World War II, was murdered with a homemade gun almost three months ago.

An older man is said to have been in a reflection of deep divisions self lit to protest the funeral, and more demonstrations are expected in the coming days. The controversy has politically weakened Japan’s current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, while his government plans to further Abe’s goal Strengthening of the country’s military.

If Japan goes ahead with its proposed military spending, it will have the world’s third-largest defense budget for years to come as tensions between China and the United States over Taiwan mount. The island is a self-governing democracy, but Beijing considers it part of its territory and has pledged to reunite it with the mainland.

Harris, who is leading a delegation of current and former US officials to the funeral, plans to spend three nights in Tokyo. She is expected to meet with Kishida, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Harris plans to meet with Japanese business leaders as the US seeks to expand computer chip manufacturing and to visit US sailors serving on an American destroyer at a nearby naval base.

It is the Vice President’s second trip to Asia since taking office in January 2021.

During a stopover in South Korea, she intends to meet President Yoon Suk Yeol and host a roundtable with leading women – a sensitive issue in a country where Yoon has faced criticism for its male-dominated government.

Relations between South Korea and Japan remain strained due to the legacy of Japanese aggression during World War II. Koreans are demanding compensation for forced labor and sex slavery that occurred during Japan’s occupation of their country.

Kishida and Yoon announced at the United Nations on Thursday that they will accelerate their work to restore ties between their two countries.

Biden has met with each leader separately, and the US is eager for the two allies to work out their issues while seeking a united front against China.

Taiwan remains a flashpoint and tensions have increased in recent months.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited Taiwan in August, Outrage at Beijingwho responded by holding military exercises. Although the Chinese leadership has said it wants peaceful reunification with Taiwan, the drills are a reminder of the possibility that Beijing could use force.

China fired too Missiles in waters near some southern islands of Japana reminder that any conflict over Taiwan would also pose a threat to other countries.

The US has 55,000 troops stationed in Japan, more than half of them on the southern island of Okinawa. Okinawa re-elected a governor earlier this month who is calling for a reduction in the US presence there.

Biden said in a recent 60 Minutes interview with CBS that the US would send its own troops to defend Taiwan if China invaded. But there is no formal defense treaty with Taiwan, and government officials have repeatedly said that Biden’s comments do not reflect a change in policy, muddling the waters over exactly what the US would do.

“It’s ambiguous,” said Ja-Ian Chong, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore. “But whether it’s strategically ambiguous, I don’t know.”

More controversy awaits Harris in South Korea, where there is outrage over new US rules allowing electric cars to be built outside of North America not eligible for US government subsidies. The policy was included in the Inflation Reduction Act, a landmark law that earmarks nearly $375 billion for climate initiatives.

Yoon, South Korea’s recently elected president, had spent his first months in office emphasizing his country’s close ties with the US, but now officials are expressing a sense of betrayal. They want the rules pushed back to 2025, when Korean automaker Hyundai plans to complete a new plant in Georgia.

Yoon’s government is also considering filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization over the law, which it says may violate trade rules and an agreement between the two countries.

South Korean officials are also seeking cooperation with European nations like Germany and Sweden, which they say share similar concerns about their electric vehicles exported to the US, to put more pressure on Washington over “discriminatory” withdrawals of subsidies.

The quarrel is an unpleasant continuation Biden’s trip to Seoul Earlier this year while celebrating automaker Hyundai’s plans to invest $10 billion in the United States. About half of that money is going to the Georgia factory.

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Associated Press writers Yuri Kageyama and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Kim Tong-Hyung in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/09/25/ceremony-and-controversy-await-harris-during-visit-to-asia/ Ceremony and controversy await Harris during his visit to Asia

Sarah Y. Kim

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