US, Japan vow joint efforts on Ukraine, trade, food crisis

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Japan’s finance minister agreed Tuesday to cooperate in dealing with challenges from the war in Ukraine and promoting free trade, sustainable energy and food security.

Yellen was visiting Tokyo on Tuesday for talks ahead of a meeting of the Group of 20′s financial leaders on the Indonesian island of Bali later in the week.

Before beginning her meeting with Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki, she stressed the importance of effective sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and said she hoped to gain the support of Japan and other nations in seeking a price cap on Russian oil that would limit funding going to Moscow’s military.

“Our governments have common viewpoints and interests on many of the most pressing priorities affecting our national interests as well as global stability and prosperity. And when we work together, we are each more effective,” she said.

Suzuki welcomed Yellen, saying: “At this time, when the international community faces so many challenges, it is more important than ever for the U.S. and Japan to work together.”

A joint statement issued Tuesday after the talks pledged support for Ukraine in coping with its economic challenges. It also said both sides had welcomed efforts to pursue price caps “where appropriate.”

A price cap would be aimed at curbing the war’s impact on gas and energy prices. Japan, which imports almost all its oil, has suffered an energy crunch recently partly because of the war in Ukraine and a weakening of the yen against the U.S. dollar.

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s moves to curb inflation hovering at a four-decade high by raising interest rates have helped pushed the U.S. dollar higher against many currencies. That includes the euro and the Japanese yen. With the yen trading at 20-year lows, Japan has seen costs skyrocket for many imports, including oil, gas and coal.

The statement from the Treasury Department said Japan and the U.S. will also “consult closely on exchange markets and cooperate as appropriate on currency issues.”

The talks Tuesday had scant immediate impact on exchange rates, with the dollar gaining to 137.25 yen from 136.10 yen.

Yellen is making her first visit to Asia as treasury secretary. She was chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve from 2014-2018.

On Monday, she attended the wake for former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated on Friday. Abe, the nation’s longest serving prime minister, was shot Friday by a man who emerged from a crowd, firing a homemade weapon.

Yellen, sitting across from a table from Suzuki, offered her condolences, saying Abe had left a legacy of “revitalizing Japan’s economy and leadership position.”

In their statement, Japan and the U.S. expressed support for a new World Bank fund to help finance pandemic prevention and urged other creditor nations, such as China, to help countries like crisis stricken Sri Lanka deal with their debt problems.

After the G-20 meetings, Yellen is due to visit South Korea.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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