The governments of Japan and the United States are seeking to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Joe Biden in Washington as early as April, Japanese government sources said Monday.
While the coronavirus situation in the United States will be a key factor in whether the summit can go ahead, if realized Suga could become the first foreign leader to meet with Biden in person under his presidency.
U.S. online news outlet Axios reported Sunday that Biden was planning to host Suga at the White House as soon as April.
The upcoming meeting, if realized, will provide a chance for the two countries to showcase their robust alliance amid China’s increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, including around the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
According to the U.S. news outlet, the plan is yet to be finalized and could slide to later in the spring.
Suga showed eagerness to visit the United States at an early date in his telephone talks with Biden in January.
Biden picked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as his counterpart for what the White House called his “first bilateral meeting” since taking office, but he used a virtual format for the talks.
The 78-year-old president has so far not met foreign leaders in person in Washington or visited other countries as he prioritizes efforts to contain the novel coronavirus.
The White House said it has nothing to announce in connection with the reported meeting plan.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan hoped a summit between the two leaders would take place as soon as possible, depending on the coronavirus pandemic situation.
But Kato said no timing has been set for when a meeting between the two leaders would take place.
The leaders of Japan, the United States, India and Australia will hold a teleconference under the “Quad” framework possibly on Friday. They are expected to discuss policies toward China.
Also, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are planning to visit Japan as early as March 15 for “two-plus-two” security talks with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, according to government sources.
Their visit will mark the first trip to Japan by senior members of the administration under Biden, who was sworn in on Jan. 20.
Blinken and Austin are likely to meet with Suga as well and exchange opinions about the envisaged Japan-U.S. summit, the sources said.
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