DeSantis praises ‘strong Japan’ military build-up as meets Kishida

TOKYO (Reuters) -Potential U.S. presidential candidate Ron DeSantis on Monday met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and lauded bilateral ties, especially the idea of a “strong Japan”.

The trip, part of a four-country trade mission, comes as the Florida governor seeks to burnish foreign policy credentials ahead of an official announcement that he will run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, expected later this year.

“We really appreciate what a great ally Japan has been to the U.S. for many, many decades,” DeSantis told Kishida at the start of their meeting at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo.

Japan last year unveiled a five-year, $315 billion military expansion in the face of an increasingly powerful China and as North Korea steps up its missile launches, a move that DeSantis praised.

“We very much applaud your efforts to bolster your defences. We understand it’s a tough neighbourhood out here … and we really believe that a strong Japan is good for America, and a strong America is good for Japan,” he said.

DeSantis also met Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Monday evening and spoke of how keen he was to see a deepening of economic relations between Japan and Florida.

“We believe Florida’s market is a great opportunity for additional investment from Japanese companies,” DeSantis said ahead of a working dinner with Hayashi, adding that he hoped to see more Japanese investment in Florida specifically.

“You are the number one foreign direct investment in America … which we appreciate, but you’re only number six in Florida, so I think we can make that go higher,” he said.

DeSantis will head to South Korea, Israel and Britain after leaving Japan.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies and Sakura Murakami; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Alison Williams)