TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday pledged to deepen his country's alliance with the United States under Japan's new defense policy that breaks from its exclusively self-defense-only stance in the face of growing regional tensions.
Kishida, speaking in a news conference after visiting Ise Shrine in central Japan, said he will visit Washington for talks with President Joe Biden to underscore the strength of the Japan-U.S. alliance and highlight closer cooperation between the countries under Japan's new security and defense strategies adopted last month.
The U.S. visit is part of Kishida's upcoming trip to most of the Group of Seven countries beginning Monday. Japan will host this year's G-7 summit in Hiroshima. Kishida said his meeting with Biden will be "very important" and "more significant than showing my face as G-7 president."
"We will show to the rest of the world an even stronger Japan-U.S. alliance, which is a lynchpin of Japanese security and diplomacy," Kishida said. "We will also show our further cooperation toward achieving a 'free and open Indo-Pacific.'"
Japan, under the new security and defense plans, is purchasing hundreds of U.S.-developed Tomahawks and other long-range cruise missiles to preempt possible attacks and also building up defenses in southwestern Japan amid growing worries of a Taiwan emergency. Japanese media said the U.S. and Japan are expected to discuss how they would cooperate in the event of a conflict over Taiwan.
Earlier Wednesday, the White House announced that Biden will host Kishida for economic and security consultations on Jan. 13.
Biden and Kishida are expected to discuss North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, amid concerns over the potential for another nuclear test by the reclusive nation, as well as Russia's invasion of Ukraine, stability across the Taiwan Strait, climate change and economic issues, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The two leaders last met in Bali, Indonesia, during November's Group of 20 summit.
Kishida will also visit France, Italy, Britain and Canada to meet their leaders during his Jan. 9-15 trip, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.
Kishida on Wednesday also vowed to tackle Japan's dire problem of declining births, while pushing his "new capitalism" policy that he said will generate a "virtuous cycle of growth and distribution of wealth" to achieve a steady increase in salaries that have stalled for decades.
The number of babies born in Japan last year is expected to fall to a new record below 800,000 as part of a steady decline that is seen as eroding national strength.
"We cannot wait any longer," Kishida said. "From an economic perspective, we also need to allay the concerns of those saying they cannot invest in Japan because it's shrinking from declining births."
Kishida said the government will do more to expand support for childcare and reduce gender gaps in salaries and working environments to lower barriers for women.
Japan is the world's third-biggest economy but living costs are high and wage increases have been slow. The conservative government has lagged in making society more inclusive for children, women and minorities.
So far, the government's efforts to encourage people to have more babies has had limited impact despite introducing subsidy payments for pregnancy, childbirth and child care.