Biden to host Japanese PM Suga at White House on Friday his first in-person bilateral meeting

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Biden to host Japanese PM Suga at White House on Friday his first in-person bilateral meeting

Friday, 16 April 2021 | PTI | Washington

Biden to host Japanese PM Suga at White House on Friday his first in-person bilateral meeting

US President Joe Biden will hold his first in-person meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide on Friday where two leaders will discuss a range of regional security concerns, including China and denuclearisation of North Korea, the White House said.

Prime Minister Suga arrived in Washington DC on Thursday night. After some private meetings on Friday morning, he will have an engagement with the Vice President Kamala Harris up at her home in the Naval Observatory, thereafter he will drive down to the White House.

“The President is looking forward to welcoming the Prime Minister tomorrow (Friday).  It is significant that our first bilateral meeting, in-person, is with Japan.  It emphasises our important relationship and all of the cooperative work we have to do together,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference.

Responding to a question, Psaki said that America's approach to China and its shared coordination and cooperation on that front will be part of the discussion, as will their joint commitment to the denuclearisation of North Korea. Regional security will be a prominent issue as well, Psaki added.

In April, the US, Japan and South Korea agreed to work together to keep up pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. The US and North Korea have not held formal talks regarding Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme since 2019.

“We plan to have a long-session -- a tête-à-tête between the two leaders, in which they're going to have a chance to really get to know one another, and then be joined in a larger meeting with senior officials, and then be joined by members of the Cabinet,” a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

“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. So we've experienced almost 10 years under Prime Minister Abe, and now Prime Minister Suga follows suit, and we're looking forward to a long and strong partnership with him,” the official said.

At the summit, taking place amidst a spike in global COVID-19 cases, Biden and Suga are expected to discuss the fight against the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccine cooperation to support developing countries and establishing less China-reliant supply chains.

In the deliverables, the two countries have been focusing on a broader, deeper set of engagements across technology, policy, health-related matters, climate, and also regional security. Following the talks, they are expected to announce a very Japanese commitment to an initiative to work on 5G and next steps beyond 5G -- USD 2 billion -- working in partnership with the United States, said the official on condition of anonymity.

“Prime Minister Suga also intends to discuss with President Biden specific steps on climate that we believe will put Japan at the lead, in terms of an ambitious set of goals for 2030. And we'll also talk about regional security issues in depth. The United States is nearing the completion of its review on North Korea policy.  Japan has been consulted all along, but the two leaders will now have a chance to put the finishing touches on what is an important initiative for the United States,” the official said.

Biden and his team will underscore Japan's interests in these issues.

“We will also talk in depth about China and the Cross-Strait circumstances. And I think the US 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 official said.

According to the senior administration official, internationally, the Biden administration is deeply engaged with partners and allies.

“If you want to put this week's news in proper context, I think one of the reasons why the President and his team has taken the careful steps on Afghanistan is actually to free up the time and attention and resources from our senior leadership and our military to focus on what we believe are the fundamental challenges of the 21st century. And they lie, fundamentally, in the Indo-Pacific,” the official asserted.

India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region. The Chinese military is also actively eying the strategic Indian Ocean region to step up Beijing influence.

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.

In 2017, India, Australia, Japan and the US gave shape to the long-pending proposal of setting up the "Quad" or the Quadrilateral coalition to counter China's aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region.

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