U.S. President Joe Biden has corrected himself after saying last week that he had persuaded Japan to significantly increase its defense budget, according to a White House transcript released Wednesday.
"He didn't need my convincing as much as he'd already decided," Biden is quoted as saying about Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during a campaign reception on Tuesday night at a private house in Maryland.
Biden praised Japan for actively engaging with Western countries' efforts to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia's invasion, telling Democrat supporters that Kishida understood failing to offer assistance "would send a green light about (China invading) Taiwan and a number of other things."
Japan on Friday objected to Biden's remark that he had pushed Kishida on three occasions to increase the budget, with the country's top spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno saying Tokyo had made clear to Washington it considered the claim untrue.
The disagreement between the long-standing security allies stemmed from a speech made by Biden at an event held at a private residence in California on June 20.
The 80-year president has been known to misspeak, having also told the press on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "losing the war in Iraq."
According to the White House, Biden told his supporters at the event, "I convinced him and he convinced himself that he had to do something different. Japan has increased its military budget exponentially. And guess what? When is the last time you heard Japan being interested in what's happening in the middle of Europe in a war?"
Kishida's government late last year pledged to almost double Japan's defense budget by fiscal 2027 to around 2 percent of gross domestic product in the face of serious security challenges posed by China and North Korea.
On Tuesday, Biden, who seeks to return to the White House following the 2024 presidential election, also touched on Japan's improved relations with South Korea after years of heightened tensions over wartime issues, according to the transcript.
"He asked me to strongly support it, which I did," he said, referring to Kishida.
At a different private campaign event in Maryland on the same day, Biden is quoted as saying, "The Japanese have been wonderful. They've been wonderful. They've increased their budget."
At another campaign event on Wednesday in Chicago, he also hailed Japan's increased defense budget, its improved ties with South Korea and his administration's push to cooperate more closely with like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the White House.