Biden to host Japanese prime minister for first in-person visit

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President Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House Friday for his first in-person summit with a world leader since taking office, as the two nations aim to discourage recent “provocations” by China.

Japan, one of the strongest US allies in the Indo-Pacific, snagged the highly coveted first White House visit to send Beijing the message that the two nations would put up a united front in combating its aggression, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday.

“The idea of the visit is to underscore what we would really describe as almost an axiom or a maxim for the US role in the region: The United States can only be effective in Asia when the US-Japan relationship is strong and Japan is steady and stable,” the official said.

“We recognize some of the challenges that both our countries are facing,” they continued. “And I think we’re looking to this meeting to take steps that — to buttress both leaders and also the partnership as we go forward.”

The official said they expect Biden and Suga to release a joint statement at the end of the summit highlighting their aligned priorities.

“I do want to underscore that neither country is seeking to raise tensions or to provoke China. But at the same time, we’re trying to send a clear signal that some of the steps that China is taking … is antithetical to the mission of maintaining peace and stability,” the Biden official cautioned. “And I think we’ll want to underscore that as we go forward.”

China has faced a wave of international scrutiny over the past few years relating to its activities dismantling democracy in Hong Kong and its refusal to accept responsibility for negligence and a lack of transparency at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. But it hasn’t let global tensions stop the mass internment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province or rising aggressions toward Taiwan, whose leader expects an invasion within the decade.

“I think the United States and Japan seek to play a steady, careful role to underscore our mutual commitment in the maintenance of peace and stability, and to take steps to calm tensions and to discourage provocations,” the Biden official said.

In addition to China, Biden and Suga will likely discuss this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Asked about his intentions for the trip while speaking to reporters Thursday before heading to the airport, Suga explained that he hoped “to develop a relationship of trust with President Biden and further strengthen the Japan-US alliance bound by the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law.”

He went on to say he and the US president would “compare and adjust our policies, and we will demonstrate to the rest of the world the leadership of Japan and the United States toward achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

Suga will kick off the summit at 11 a.m. Friday with a bilateral meeting at the Naval Observatory with Vice President Kamala Harris, who resides in and works at the complex.

Afterwards, he will head to the White House, where he is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. EST to spend an hour with the commander-in-chief in the Oval Office before both leaders will be joined by their respective teams for an expanded meeting.

The expanded gathering is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

The two leaders will hold a news conference from the Rose Garden later in the afternoon at 4:15 p.m.

The visit will not include a state dinner, as is routine during White House visits by foreign leaders.

The administration will eschew the tradition over coronavirus concerns, as well as the issue in this case that Suga is not technically the head of state, as is required for such a dinner.

Emperor Naruhito technically holds that title.

With Post wires

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