• Kyodo, Jiji

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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday congratulated U.S. President Joe Biden on his inauguration and expressed hope to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

“Japan and the United States are allies tied firmly by bonds and shared universal values,” Suga wrote in a tweet in English. “I look forward to working with you and your team to reinforce our alliance and to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo on Thursday, following the inauguration of Joe Biden as U.S. president. | KYODO
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo on Thursday, following the inauguration of Joe Biden as U.S. president. | KYODO

Suga also extended congratulations to Vice President Kamala Harris.

Speaking to reporters at his office, Suga said he also hopes to cooperate closely with Biden on global issues including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

A phone call between the leaders is being arranged “for an appropriate time,” he added.

The prime minister had said earlier he hopes to visit the United States soon, possibly in February, for a meeting with the new president. With Biden facing myriad issues at home in the opening months of his presidency, however, a Japan-U.S. summit may have to wait.

Suga appears eager to build close ties with Biden as both countries look to reinvigorate their coronavirus-hit economies as well as deal with China’s military buildup and rising assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development program.

Shortly after the Democrat defeated Republican Donald Trump in the presidential election in November, Suga and Biden agreed in a phone call to work together to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Suga said after the conversation that Biden made assurances the United States is committed to defending the Senkaku Islands, a group of East China Sea islets administered by Tokyo but claimed by China.

The comment drew the ire of China, which often sends coast guard ships into waters around the Senkakus, known as the Diaoyu in China, in an attempt to undermine Japan’s control over the uninhabited islets.

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