Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington will take place on April 16, the top government spokesman said Friday, a week later than previously scheduled.
The delay is necessary “to allow more time for preparation to ensure the success” of Suga’s trip, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference. A Japanese government source said the United States asked to reschedule to focus on dealing with COVID-19.
The meeting, Biden’s first with a foreign leader since taking office, will be a chance to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and affirm cooperation on a range of issues including efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region, COVID-19, climate change, China, and recent North Korean missile tests, Kato said.
Japan had initially said the summit would take place in the first half of April, with some government sources suggesting it was being arranged for April 9.
Suga has already had his first shot of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for the trip and is set to receive his second dose next week.
The meeting comes as Biden’s administration reviews North Korea policy in consultation with its allies after his predecessor Donald Trump failed to secure a denuclearization deal in three summits with the reclusive country’s leader Kim Jong Un.
The national security advisers of Japan, the United States and South Korea are meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, later Friday to discuss their approach to the North, which test-fired two ballistic missiles last week in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Suga and Biden are set to condemn the launches and call for its complete denuclearization in a joint statement after the meeting, government sources have said.
The United States has also been ramping up criticism of China’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region and growing assertiveness in the East and South China seas.
According to the sources, Suga and Biden are also expected to affirm the Senkaku Islands fall under the scope of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. security treaty, which states Washington will defend territories under Tokyo’s administration from armed attack.
The uninhabited islands in the East China Sea are controlled by Japan but claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu and frequently sends coast guard ships nearby to assert its ownership.
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