Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Amid growing challenges in a turbulent world, a true friend to America arrives in Washington on Wednesday: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

He'll take part in a leader-to-leader meeting with President Joe Biden, a trilateral summit with Biden and Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and a state dinner, as well as address a joint session of Congress. Kishida will also meet with business leaders and everyday Americans to try to impress upon them the multiple, mutual benefits of the U.S.-Japan alliance.

The advantages for this country are clear: An indispensable, increasingly capable ally in the Indo-Pacific region that can be counted on as a bulwark against a rising and increasingly reckless China — particularly its claims to Taiwan — as well as a provocative North Korea, which not only directly threatens South Korea but Japan and, by extension, the U.S.

Kishida, building on the bold constitutional reforms of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, continues to transform Japan's defense posture into one willing to engage in "collective self-defense" — a geopolitical boost to like-minded democracies in the region.

Accordingly, the likely key summit deliverables include modernizing military command structures to improve interoperability, potential coproduction of weapons systems and allowing U.S. naval vessels to be maintained and repaired in Japan so they can stay closer to where they're needed most — in and around the South and East China Seas to counter China's increasingly aggressive maritime claims and conduct. There's also a possibility of Japan furthering its alliance with the U.S. by taking part in other multilateral defense partnerships, potentially including the grouping of Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. known as AUKUS.

And the alliance may not just be blossoming in Asia and North America, but potentially in space, as the leaders are likely to commit to Japan taking part in NASA's Artemis moon program.

"The Biden administration has carried forward a lot of the previous Trump administration's focus on Asian security, but what I think they've done particularly well is to corral allies to join the United States in taking a common position," Raymond Kuo, a senior political scientist at the Rand Corporation, told an editorial writer. Kuo, who's based in Minneapolis, noted the tighter ties between Washington, Tokyo and Seoul, and said that Japan is "probably our closest allied state other than the U.K."

The transition from Abe to Kishida is resulting in an even closer strategic security alignment with the United States, Kuo said. "They're focusing on a certain degree of power projection and offsetting Chinese advantages in a way that will help alleviate the burden for U.S. forces in the region."

As with any alliance, there is friction, although most of it is domestic. Pressure points include Biden's resistance to allow a Japanese firm, Nippon Steel, to purchase U.S. Steel. But most of these issues are manageable, especially given the growing stakes of geopolitical conflict.

And as with any democratically chosen leader, Kishida realizes there could be another eventual transition in Tokyo, especially since some members of the ruling party are caught up in a significant bribery scandal. Biden, of course, has his own domestic political challenges and is in a tight re-election race against the presumptive Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump. Still, it's important that the alliance endure and even grow regardless of who is in office in either capital.

For now, Kuo said, the Biden-Kishida meeting "is further cementing their relationship, and I think pushing forward in terms of all those economic and security areas."

That's good news for America: Global conflict is always best met multilaterally with reliable allies.