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Joe Biden speaks during a joint news conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk-youl in Seoul.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In Asia to fix imbalance, Biden talks both guns and butter

In his first presidential trip to Asia, where he is visiting South Korea and Japan as well as huddling with Quad partners, Joe Biden isn’t expected to sign any major trade deals or defense agreements. But America’s commander-in-chief is going to be in China’s neighborhood, shoring up new and old alliances in the region, reminding Beijing that checking the PRC is very much on Washington’s agenda, despite the administration’s attention being taken up by domestic politics and the war in Ukraine.

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A Japanese tanker anchored near an LNG plant on Russia's Sakhalin Island.

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Japan’s red line on Russia

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a lot of attention has focused on if, when, and how Europe might wean itself off of Russian energy flows to cripple Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

But there’s another major world economy that borders Russia, depends on Moscow to keep the power running, and faces tough choices because of its close ties to the US.

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Jean Luc Melenchon poster at French leftist movement La France Insoumise's (LFI) headquarters in Paris.

Reuters

What We're Watching: Macron has a left problem, Japan's nuclear option, the election no one cares about

Japan embraces nuclear to wean itself off Russian energy

Russia's war in Ukraine is pushing notoriously slow-moving Japan to make unusually swift policy shifts. In mid-March, Tokyo gave up its decades-long effort to negotiate with Russia over the return of the disputed Kuril Islands. Now, it's ready to ditch Russian energy, which resource-poor Japan needs to keep the lights on. (Tokyo joined Western sanctions against Russia but has not yet banned imports of Russian oil and natural gas.) PM Fumio Kishida announced Thursday that Japan will restart its mothballed nuclear reactors — a big deal because nuclear power is a highly sensitive topic in the only nation to suffer an attack with atomic weapons. Also, a tsunami caused in 2011 the Fukushima disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. That led Japanese public opinion to sour on nuclear, but now a majority support Kishida's plans, which also aim to help the country become carbon-neutral by 2050. Interestingly, the announcement comes just days after a top Japanese investor confirmed a $21 billion natural gas project in Siberia despite uncertainty over Russian sanctions and fears that Russia will cut off Japan first.

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Waiting for Foot Traffic to Return in Tokyo | Small Business Owner Shizuka Takahashi

Waiting for foot traffic to return in Tokyo

Shizuka Takahashi wants Tokyo’s foot traffic to return. Having face-to-face interactions with her customers means everything to her — in fact, the desire to interact with people is why she opened her Tokyo shop, PuRe Juice Bar. She got the idea while living in New York City, where people know and love smoothies. In Tokyo, however, the juice culture is less common. Takahashi opened in 2019 only to be hit by reduced sales as a result of COVID-19. By learning to market herself throughout the pandemic, and with government aid, she’s been able to keep her company afloat. Now she’s looking forward to helping her Japanese customers get hooked on healthy juice drinks.

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PM Fumio Kishida stands next to Japan's national flag at a news conference in Tokyo.

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Japan’s Russian reversal

The world has its eyes on Vladimir Putin’s ambitions to retake former Soviet territory amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But remarkably little attention has been paid to another nation from which the USSR once seized land. Hint: it’s not a part of NATO.

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Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister of Japan: Opening Remarks | GZERO Summit | GZERO Media

Japan's "third way" capitalism

Japan, the world's third-largest economy, has long been a bastion of modern capitalism. But newly-minted PM Fumio Kishida thinks it's time for a rethink of the neoliberal model.
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South Korea's Pop Culture Moment | Journalist Jean Lee | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

South Korea's pop culture moment

First it was Parasite at the Oscars. Then BTS dazzling young people worldwide. Now everyone's glued to Squid Game. What will South Korea come up with next? For veteran Korea correspondent Jean Lee, the country is definitely punching above its (geographical) weight on soft power. She says South Korea has the potential to shape global culture like England did in its heyday. Watch a clip from her interview with Ian Bremmer on the upcoming episode of GZERO World.

Net Zero Emissions by 2050 "Lacks Sense of Urgency" — Suntory CEO | GZERO Media

Net zero emissions by 2050 "lacks sense of urgency" — Suntory CEO

Like many other big corporations, Japanese brewer and distiller Suntory want to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But that's not enough for CEO Tak Niinami. "It's far away and lacks the sense of urgency," he says. Niinami predicts that especially after COP26 people will be wary of greenwashing, so it's essential for corporations to "to be transparent, showing society what we are doing and how much progress we are making" on climate.

Suntory CEO Tak Niinami spoke during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here.

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