5G key for ensuring economic security

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hold a joint press conference in Tokyo on Monday.

In addition to heightening defense capabilities, the Japanese government has considered the strengthening of cooperation over economic security to be a key theme of the summit between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden, according to an official close to the prime minister.

“We concurred on cooperation in economic security, including the development of advanced semiconductors,” Kishida said at a joint press conference on Monday. Biden likewise committed to “promoting a secure [high-speed, high-capacity] 5G network” and “strengthening supply chain resilience, particularly on semiconductors, batteries and critical minerals.”

The U.S. and Japanese governments are focusing their efforts on countering China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Biden cited 5G as an example out of concern over what China might do if Huawei Technologies Co. and other Chinese giants dominate telecommunications standards.

“We never know what China will do,” a senior Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry official said.

An accompanying document released after the bilateral summit called for strengthening cooperation toward the promotion of an “open access network” by establishing 5G mobile base stations that can be connected via any telecommunications company’s equipment. This is an apparent attempt to prevent a “China standard” from spreading.

The joint statement specified “establishing a joint task force to explore the development of next generation semiconductors” with regard to securing stable supply chains. Next-generation advanced semiconductors will be essential for the production of quantum computers that will surpass the performance of supercomputers. The Japan government hopes that Tokyo and Washington will join forces to lead the intensifying competition over quantum computer development.

Following the enactment of the economic security promotion law on May 11, the government plans to provide financial support to companies that are trying to diversify their supply chains. However, the development of advanced technologies and the establishment of domestic production systems will require significant funding.

The Biden administration is promoting decoupling from the Chinese economy, but it is difficult to completely eliminate China from Japan’s supply chain.

“The only way to secure a supply chain that does not rely on China is to work with the United States and enhance Japan’s technological capabilities,” a senior government official said.