Olympics, climate on the agenda for Biden meeting with Japanese PM

17-Apr-2021 Intellasia | TheHill | 5:02 AM Print This Post

President Biden will welcome Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga on Friday for his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader, which the White House said is intended to send a message about the importance of the relationship between the two countries in the Pacific.

“The United States can only be effective in Asia when the US-Japan relationship is strong,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters.

The two leaders are expected to discuss climate change, the Summer Olympics slated for later this year in Tokyo and the state of affairs in the Indo-Pacific, where China is likely to dominate the conversation.

The US is expected to announce after the meeting a Japanese commitment of $2 billion to an initiative to work on 5G telecommunications networks, as well as climate goals for Japan to reach by 2030. The meeting comes one week before the US hosts an Earth Day summit focused on combatting climate change.

Many American have been closely monitoring how the coronavirus pandemic might affect the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which were delayed last year to 2021. It’s still unclear whether the games will go ahead as planned as certain countries lag in vaccine acquisition and distribution.

A senior administration official said it would likely still be a couple months before there is any final decision on the fate of the Olympics, which are scheduled to start in late July.

“The goal of the president, he respects and understands what prime minister Suga is trying to do by holding an Olympics largely without fans in the stands,” the official said. “He very much understands the risks and challenges, but also understands Japanese national intent to move forward. We expect this is going to come up.”

Much of the discussion is likely to centre on foreign policy, and on China’s role in the region in particular. Japan is a key ally for the United States is confronting China’s economic and military presence, as well as Beijing’s human rights record.

International observers have raised concerns about whether China might attack Taiwan, its involvement in the ongoing military coup in Myanmar and human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in China.

The White House is likely to issue a formal statement about consultations between Biden and Suga on those issues, the senior official said. The official also praised Japan’s diplomatic role “behind the scenes” on the situation in Myanmar.

Biden and Suga are also expected to discuss plans for another “Quad” meeting. Its members include the leaders of Japan, the United States, India and Australia, and the group held its first meeting earlier this year.

The Quad was first established in 2007, and it has increasingly gained support in recent years as a method to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We view the Quad, even though it’s an unofficial gathering, as a huge part of the architecture of the Indo-Pacific going forward,” the administration official said Thursday.



Category: Japan

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