When Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga steps into the Oval Office on Friday as the first foreign leader to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden, it will serve as a chance for them to cement a unified stance on China — or at least clarify how far they’re willing to go together, write Jesse Johnson and Satoshi Sugiyama.

Sources say Suga and Biden will at least express deep concern about human rights violations in China in a postsummit statement. The two countries are reportedly also looking to set up three working groups covering some of Biden’s top priorities: emerging technologies, climate change and COVID-19 measures.

What’s really needed, though, argues columnist Richard Javad Heydarian, is for the allies to come up with a viable alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative for the region, while at the same time strengthening the ability of smaller states to defend their territory and recover from the pandemic.

U.S.-Japan talks to focus on tensions with China | DW NEWS
U.S.-Japan talks to focus on tensions with China | DW NEWS

As for the Japanese public, some 70% of survey respondents say they want the government to take a strong stand on China’s intrusions into Japanese waters. Suga is also being urged by his party to bring up the lingering issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese nationals.

Speaking of which, it would be no surprise at all if North Korea opts to rain missiles on Suga and Biden’s parade. Not literally, of course, but Pyongyang could conduct some kind of weapons test as it marks a key anniversary and seeks to force itself back to the top of the agenda, writes Johnson.

And don’t forget the unfinished business on trade, urges commentator Riley Walters, following the “phase one” Japan-U.S. deal reached last year. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative signaled recently that it wants to tie up the loose ends. After all, barriers still remain, as Tokyo demonstrated last month when it hiked tariffs temporarily on U.S. beef.