• Kyodo

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U.S. President Joe Biden commended Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on the “successful” hosting of the Tokyo Olympics during phone talks on Tuesday and expressed his support for the Paralympics, which will start later in the month, according to the White House.

The Tokyo Games ended Sunday following more than two weeks of competition held amid extraordinary restrictions under the coronavirus pandemic. Biden had supported Japan’s plan to hold a “safe and secure” Olympics despite concerns over pushing ahead with the global sporting event without the pandemic fully under control.

“Biden applauded the performance of all the athletes and highlighted the success of Japanese and U.S. Olympians,” the White House said in a statement.

“The president also affirmed his continuing support for Japan’s hosting of the Paralympics, while noting the public health measures taken so that Olympic athletes could compete in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit,” it said.

The capital is preparing to now host the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Suga told reporters after the roughly 15-minute phone talks that Biden praised the Summer Games as a great success and congratulated Japan’s government and its people.

The two leaders also affirmed cooperation to further advance a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, Suga said, as the United States and its allies seek to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

It was Suga and Biden’s first conversation since meeting in June at a Group of Seven summit in Britain.

U.S. first lady Jill Biden, who visited Japan to attend the Olympic opening ceremony and was welcomed with a dinner at the Akasaka Palace state guest house, sat in on the call and thanked Suga for the hospitality, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

In Washington on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, met with Japan’s national security adviser Takeo Akiba and affirmed the importance of preserving peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait as Beijing steps up pressure on Taipei, according to the U.S. State Department.

The Taiwan issue has become one of the key topics of discussion between the two countries, with concerns growing over China’s possible invasion of the self-ruled democratic island.

Taiwan and mainland China have been separately governed since they split as a result of a civil war in 1949. Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has since endeavored to bring the island into its fold.

Blinken and Akiba also expressed their opposition to any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea, where the Japanese-controlled, Chinese-claimed Senkaku Islands are located, as well as to activities that undermine or destabilize the rules-based international order.

The two also noted the importance of trilateral cooperation involving South Korea to address what they call the “pressing challenges of the 21st century,” including the denuclearization of North Korea.

Akiba also agreed during a separate meeting with his U.S. counterpart Jake Sullivan the same day on the need for constant communication between Japan’s National Security Secretariat and the U.S. National Security Council, according to the Japanese government.

Akiba, the head of the secretariat and a former vice foreign minister, assumed Japan’s top security post on July 7, replacing Shigeru Kitamura, a former National Police Agency official.

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