Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet President Joe Biden in the United States next month. File/AFP
Japan’s government announced on Friday that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will travel to Washington next month for his first face-to-face summit with President Joe Biden after he and his entourage complete their COVID-19 vaccinations.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Suga is expected to be the first foreign leader that Biden meets with since he took office in January. The trip is expected to take place in the first half of April.
Kato said the two leaders are expected to discuss pandemic measures, climate change and other regional concerns including North Korea.
The meeting is also likely to touch on China’s escalating assertiveness in the East and South China seas, which have become a growing concern for Tokyo and Washington.
“We hope to further strengthen our bilateral relations including the Japan-US alliance and to confirm our close cooperation toward achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Kato said. “It would be a good opportunity for us to show the rest of the world the close unity of the Japan-US alliance and the US commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.”
China has built and militarized manmade islands in the South China Sea and is pressing its claim to virtually all of the sea’s key fisheries and waterways. Japan is concerned about China’s claim to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea.
China has denied it is expansionist and said it is only defending its territorial rights.
Kato said officials are finalizing details of Suga’s trip.
The prime minister and all 80-90 accompanying staff will receive two doses of a coronavirus vaccine before the trip, Kato said, noting that Biden and all the White House staff they will meet have already been vaccinated.
Suga has had online talks with Biden and on Friday was to join a virtual summit of the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the US, a group known as “the Quad” that shares concerns about China’s growing economic and military might.
Suga, speaking at a symposium, also said Japan was preparing to implement thorough coronavirus prevention measures for the Summer Olympics next year.
The one-day summit is expected to yield steps diversifying supply chains seen as over-reliant on China and a $2 billion commitment from Japan to work with the United States on alternatives to the 5G network of Chinese firm Huawei, a senior US official said.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Monday that he wanted to work with President-elect Joe Biden to strengthen the Japan-US alliance and to secure peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
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