Suga says Biden supports Tokyo Olympics but attendance uncertain


It's Biden's first in-person meeting with a foreign leader, as he seeks to reallocate US military and diplomatic resources to the Indo-Pacific in an effort to counter China's growing power.

At an event hosted by Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank after a day of talks with Biden, Suga said Japan would "firmly raise its voice" on issues like Myanmar, Xinjiang and Hong Kong and work with the international community to seek concrete actions.

The two leaders, both just months in office, announced a partnership aimed at improving coordination on the pandemic response and future global health challenges. "We agreed to oppose any attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East and the South China Seas and intimidation of others in the region", he added.

Before Suga's meeting with Biden, China's Foreign Affairs Ministry warned Japan against "being misled by some countries holding biased views against China".

The document says Suga and Biden shared their concerns over Chinese activities that are inconsistent with the global rules-based order.

Biden's predecessor, former President Donald Trump, had banned Huawei from buying US technology and blocked USA firms from buying Huawei components, citing national security concerns. During his remarks in the Rose Garden, Suga described the United States as "Japan's best friend", and he co-opted Biden's domestic policy slogan in stating that their nations' cooperation would enable Asia and the world to "build back better".

Biden referred to his counterpart as "Yoshi", as though they were longtime friends.

Longtime Japan watcher Matthew Goodman, senior vice president for economics at CSIS, said in a media briefing Thursday: "I have been involved with Japan for nearly 40 years, and I've seen a lot of U.S. -Japan summits".

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The president is determined to successfully pull off the foreign policy initiative that his former boss, President Obama, could not - to engineer a "pivot" from the Middle East, where the USA has been bogged down militarily for two decades, to pay more attention to the vital Indo-Pacific region.

But it is China that is expected to be one of the biggest focuses.

Japan long has moved cautiously on steps that might worsen relations with China, though Suga has been more outspoken.

The concerned about longstanding tensions between Japan and South Korea, aggravated by a recent trade dispute. "We will have to make a decision at that point", he said on a TV program. The wording on human rights was identical to the two-plus-two statement.

Mildly worded as that part of the two leaders' statement was, it marked the first time a Japanese prime minister had spoken out in a communique with the United States on Taiwan since 1969 talks between Richard Nixon and Eisaku Sato.

The months-old Biden administration looks to Suga to keep going on alliance-strengthening moves by both countries. Biden and Suga on Friday are expected to announce steps through the Quad framework to help India produce COVID-19 vaccines.

Kamala Harris, the first Asian American to serve as vice president, as well as the first Black woman, met privately with Suga in the morning, before his meetings with Biden.

All in all, the two leaders spent two and a half hours meeting, far longer than originally planned, the Japanese government briefed reporters.

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However, researchers say more data is needed to determine whether protection lasts after six months. Ontario logged a record 4,812 new cases on Friday and 25 more deaths related to the virus.