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As climate change threatens world peace, Japan must face up to risk

As climate change threatens world peace, Japan must face up to risk

Suga needs to work with Biden on security strategies that include global warming

TOKYO -- Almost a decade ago, then-President Barack Obama's White House cited climate change as a "threat multiplier" to both American and international security.

This assertion in the administration's Quadrennial Defense Review was met with skepticism by some in the Japanese government and Self-Defense Forces. Given Japan's exposure to threats from the military buildups by China and Russia, as well as North Korea's nuclear development, that reaction was understandable.

This correspondent, too, wondered why the U.S. was talking about climate change instead of focusing on conventional military threats.

In keeping with its priorities, the Obama administration let China gain a military foothold in the South China Sea as Washington focused on building cooperation with Beijing against climate change during the president's second term. Partly due to this bitter experience, some within Japan's government have reacted coolly to President Joe Biden's embrace of climate change as a priority.

But the time has come for a rethink. Putting aside the question of whether the Obama administration's views were correct at the time, Japan should treat climate change as a serious security threat. Extreme weather is already undermining global stability.

Climate change will be high on the agenda Friday during the first face-to-face meeting between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Washington. The urgency is clear: Japan will be seen as a laggard among major countries if it does not share the awareness, increasingly common in Western capitals, that continued global warming will cause a deterioration in global security.

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