WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will receive Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday for his first face-to-face meeting with a world leader since taking office at the White House.
Biden’s decision to see Suga for his first face-to-face meeting underscores his administration’s focus on strengthening ties with allies in Asia as the U.S. works to counter an increasingly assertive China.
Suga is expected to begin the day-long meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris at the Naval Observatory, the Vice President’s residence. He will later meet privately with Biden at the White House, followed by larger meetings with senior administrators and cabinet members.
A senior government official said a number of China-related issues were expected, including China’s action in the Cross strait and human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
Despite pressures to confront China more directly, Japan is in a precarious position due to its economic ties and proximity to China.
“No country is trying to build tension or provoke China, but at the same time we are trying to send a clear signal,” the official said. “We also recognize the deep economic and commercial ties between Japan and China, and Prime Minister Suga wants to be careful and we respect that.”
The White House announced Thursday that Biden’s second face-to-face meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae will take place in Washington late next month, further signaling its commitment to strengthening alliances in the region. Biden’s ministers of state and defense visited Japan and South Korea on their first trips abroad last month.
North Korea should also be at the top of the agenda on Friday. Shortly after the start of two smaller missile tests, two ballistic missiles were launched into the Sea of Japan last month. Biden condemned the second ballistic missile launch in violation of a United States resolution.
The government official said Biden would also prioritize discussing Japan’s strained relations with South Korea. The Japanese government decided this week to release treated radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant to the Pacific in two years, which South Korea has criticized and promised to combat.
“It is important to us to bring Japan-South Korea relations down to their current level, even if it is painful for us. Political tensions are so great that we believe this is actually hampering all of our abilities to be effective be.” Northeast Asia, “said the official.
This year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics are also likely to emerge as doubts arise as to whether Japan can safely hold the Games in a fourth wave of coronavirus infections. However, it is unlikely that Biden will put pressure on Suga to cancel the games that were postponed last year. The chief administrative officer said, “In general, the president is very personable and loves sports.”
The two leaders are expected to speak about trade, climate change, pandemic, supply chains and 5G technology, among other things.