Washington – The U.S. government trusts Japan’s commitment to prioritize public health as it prepares to host the Tokyo Olympics this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic, White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.
The remarks came after a major Japanese daily newspaper called for the cancellation of the Olympics in an editorial, adding to the controversy over Japan’s plan to push ahead with the global sporting event despite being still unable to bring the pandemic under control.
“The government of Japan has stressed that public health remains a central priority. And so that is the commitment that they made to us and to other countries where they will have athletes attending the Olympics in just a few weeks,” Jean-Pierre, deputy press secretary, told a news conference.
“We trust what the government of Japan has stated to us,” she added.
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has reiterated its support for Japan’s intention to host the Olympics, which is scheduled to start on July 23 following a decision last year to postpone for 12 months due to the pandemic.
But a new wave of coronavirus cases in Japan led the U.S. State Department to issue on Monday an advisory to travelers not to visit.
The advisory is based on a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notice that was triggered when Japan met the criteria that its current coronavirus incidence rate reached more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days.
Jean-Pierre emphasized that the travel advisory is “not a ban” and the U.S. position on the Olympics has not changed.
“Tokyo has assured us that they will keep in close contact with Washington as their plans develop,” she said.
“The president proudly supports the U.S. athletes who have trained for these games and will be competing in the best traditions, if you will, of the Olympic spirit. And so, America’s Olympic athletes represent the very best of our determination, diversity and teamwork,” she also said.
U.S. and European media have been reporting the growing opposition in Japan to hosting the Summer Games when the country is still battling the pandemic, as well as the frustration at the slow vaccination rollout compared to other developed countries.
In the Wednesday editorial that sparked much commentary worldwide, the Asahi Shimbun, an official sponsor of the Tokyo Olympics, called on Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to cancel the games this summer, saying that the present situation is “nowhere close to making anyone feel safe.”
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