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President Biden’s decision not to attend former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s funeral on Tuesday sends a weak message to China as tensions rise in the region, Japanese political commentator Yoko Ishii told Fox News.
Abe, 67, was assassinated on July 8 while delivering a campaign speech in Nara, Japan. He was a stalwart supporter of U.S. foreign policy throughout his tenure as Japan’s longest-serving prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020.
“I think that it would be significant for Biden to come here now, especially because the threat of China right now is rising more than ever,” Ishii, a YouTube commentator, told Fox News. “Taiwan is in danger, and what we hear in Japan is that after Taiwan, it’s Japan.”
Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan, which the island’s independent government disputes. Tensions in the region have escalated in recent months, particularly after China conducted military drills around Taiwan after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei in August.
Five missiles China launched during those exercises landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to Japan’s defense minister.
“Now is actually the good time to show our message that Japan and the U.S. stand together strongly against China,” Ishii told Fox News.
Vice President Kamala Harris is attending Abe’s state funeral on Biden’s behalf. Ishii, who identifies as conservative, believes Biden is missing out on a rare opportunity for “funeral diplomacy.”
“Our prime minister, [Fumio] Kishida, is having bilateral talks as much as he can during the three days before and after the … state funeral,” Ishii said. “Biden is not taking advantage of this situation. I think it’s unfortunate.”
Biden would have presented himself “as a strong leader of the United States” had he chosen to attend Abe’s funeral, Ishii said.
“We [could] see that ‘oh, America is America, it’s strong’ and ‘We have to keep the world order with the leader America,'” she told Fox News. “But because he’s … choosing not to come, I think it’s working in favor for China.”
Abe worked to solidify Tokyo’s position as a key democratic ally of Washington in East Asia. He laid the groundwork for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – more commonly known as “the Quad” or sometimes “Asian NATO” – which serves as a counterweight to growing Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific. The bloc is composed of the U.S., Japan, Australia and India and unites shared democratic and economic interests across the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
The U.S. is the only Quad member state not sending its top leader to Abe’s funeral. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are set to attend the ceremony alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Biden’s failure to attend Abe’s funeral casts doubt on his commitment to the Quad and its future, according to Ishii.
“When I think about politics, I think about how our enemies receive our message,” Ishii said. “The message that Biden is sending by not coming here is that he doesn’t think so much about” the Quad.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.