Suga Plans early Visit to Biden

Reuters file photo
Japan and U.S flags

Tokyo wants to make arrangements with Washington for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to meet U.S. President Joe Biden in the United States at the earliest possible time.

Suga is seeking an in-person summit in February to exchange views on issues including diplomacy toward China, hoping to further strengthen Japan’s alliance with the United States under the Biden administration.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi is considering visiting the United States ahead of Suga to meet Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken.

The Biden administration, however, is expected to prioritize domestic issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic for the time being, while also working to repair relations with European countries that had deteriorated under President Donald Trump’s administration.

The Japanese government thus believes an actual visit by Suga may be postponed until at least March and the two leaders would for the time being be limited to discussions by phone, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official.

A common security concern for Japan and the United States is China, which continues to increase its military power. The Trump administration had shared former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” which is also spreading among other nations in Asia and in Europe.

Tokyo would like to confirm that Washington under the Biden administration shares this vision. Some in the Japanese government, however, are concerned that Biden may not want to keep to the title “free and open Indo-Pacific” as it was also adopted by the Trump administration.

The Japanese government is also paying close attention to Biden’s nuclear strategy.

When Biden served as former President Barack Obama’s vice president, a “no first use” policy regarding nuclear weapons was being considered, but it was scrapped out of concerns that the policy would cause increased anxiety among U.S. allies including Japan and South Korea, who believe the policy might diminish deterrence against nations such as North Korea.