Democracy Coalition In Asia And Authoritarian Arizona Supreme Court Denies Women’s Rights

Heather Cox Richardson

Prime minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and his wife, Yuko Kishida, are in Washington, D.C., tonight at a state dinner hosted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. The dinner is part of a state visit, the fifth for this administration.

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have worked to strengthen ties to countries in the Indo-Pacific to weaken the dominance of China in the region, and Japan is the key nation in that partnership. “We celebrate the flourishing friendship between the United States and Japan,” Dr. Biden said Tuesday. “Our nations are partners in building a world where we choose creation over destruction, peace over bloodshed, and democracy over autocracy.”

During talks today, Biden and Kishida committed to strengthening the defense and security frameworks of the two countries so they can work together effectively, especially in a crisis. The new frameworks include intelligence sharing, defense production, satellite cooperation, pilot training, cybersecurity, humanitarian assistance, and technological cooperation. Affirming the ties of science and education between the countries, the leaders announced that two Japanese astronauts would join future American missions and, Biden said, “one will become the first non-American ever to land on the moon.” 

That cooperation both takes advantage of and builds on economic ties between the two countries. In a press conference with Kishida on Wednesday, Biden noted that Japan is the top foreign investor in the U.S., and the U.S. is the top foreign investor in Japan. Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have announced investments of $2.9 billion, $1 billion, and $15 billion respectively in Japan over the next several years, largely in computer and digital advances. Japanese corporations Daiichi Sankyo, Toyota, Honda Aircraft, Yaskawa Electric Corporation, Mitsui E&S, and Fujifilm announced investments in the U.S., primarily in manufacturing.

In a press conference, Kishida told reporters that “[t]he international community stands at a historical turning point. In order for Japan, the U.S., the Indo-Pacific region, and, for that matter, the whole world to enjoy peace, stability, and prosperity lasting into the future, we must resolutely defend and further solidify a free and open international order based on the rule of law.”

“This is the most significant upgrade in our alliance…since it was first established,” Biden said. While he noted that lines of communication with China remain open—he spoke with Chinese president Xi Jinping last week—the strengthening of ties to Japan comes in part from concern about the Chinese threat  to Taiwan, a self-ruled island that the Chinese government considers its own. Leaders are increasingly concerned that the Republicans’ refusal to fund Ukraine has emboldened not only Russia but also China. 

Tomorrow, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., of the Philippines will join Biden in a bilateral meeting before Marcos, Biden, and Kishida join in the first trilateral meeting of the three. Kishida will also address a joint session of Congress.

Kenneth Weinstein of the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, suggested today that Japan “has quietly become America’s most important ally,” “playing a central role in meeting our nation’s principal strategic challenge: the threat posed by the People’s Republic of China, especially the defense of Taiwan.” Weinstein also notes that Japan’s longstanding engagement in Southeast Asia means it has “forged relations of deep trust” there among countries that often eye the U.S. with deep distrust. 

Outside of news about the Japanese prime minister’s visit, U.S. news today was consumed by reactions to yesterday’s decision by the Arizona Supreme Court to permit the enforcement of an 1864 law that is currently interpreted as a ban on all abortions except to save the mother’s life. 

President Biden issued a statement condemning the “extreme and dangerous abortion ban,” calling it “a result of the extreme agenda of Republican elected officials who are committed to ripping away women’s freedom.”

“Vice President Harris and I stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to choose,” he continued. “We will continue to fight to protect reproductive rights and call on Congress to pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade for women in every state.”

Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Tucson, Arizona, on Friday to respond to the ruling. According to Hans Nichols of Axios, she had been planning to travel to Arizona anyway but quickly shifted her visit to make it a campaign trip, allowing her to comment more freely on Trump and the Republicans who were responsible for the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the imposition of abortion bans since. 

Harris has been out front on the issue of reproductive rights, meeting more than 50 times with groups in at least 16 states since the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June 2022, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the right to abortion. This year, on the January 22 anniversary of the Roe decision, she announced a “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour. 

“Extremists across our country continue to wage a full-on attack against hard-won, hard-fought freedoms as they push their radical policies,” she said. “I will continue to fight for our fundamental freedoms while bringing together those throughout America who agree that every woman should have the right to make decisions about her own body—not the government.”

Yesterday illustrated what the overturning of Roe v. Wade has wrought. The Republicans who were celebrating that overturning two years ago are now facing an extraordinary backlash, and they are well aware that Arizona is a key state in the 2024 presidential election. Former president Trump has boasted repeatedly that he was responsible for nominating the Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe, supported a national abortion ban, and even called for women who get an abortion to be punished. 

But today he swung around again, telling reporters that he would not sign a national abortion ban if it came to his desk. To be sure, as Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t sign such a bill, but the fact he is denying that he would and is running away from the issue shows just how much it hurts the Republicans with voters. 

Harris’s trip, along with Biden’s constant travel, shows a willingness to crisscross the country to meet voters that dovetails with new statistics out about the Biden-Harris campaign. While Trump has largely stayed at Mar-a-Lago, has fewer than five staffers in each of the battlefield states, and has closed all the offices that made up the Republican National Committee’s minority outreach program, the Biden-Harris campaign has 300 paid staffers in 9 states, and 100 offices in regions crucial to the 2024 election. 

Leave a Reply