Suga helps send signal to China, garner support for Games at G7 summit

Jiji Press
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, left, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pose for a photo in Cornwall, England, on June 11.

CORNWALL, England — The communique of the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, England, ultimately sent a clear signal to China and expressed support for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Efforts by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to reach out to the leaders of other countries, in cooperation with U.S. President Joe Biden, helped produce these favorable results for Japan.

The key issue in arranging the wording of the summit communique was the treatment of Taiwan, which is under increasing military pressure from China.

Taiwan had already been included for the first time in the joint statements of the Japan-U.S. summit in April and the Japan-EU summit in May. Since it was also clearly mentioned at the G7 foreign ministers meeting held in May, some European countries were said to be reluctant to refer to the issue again in the G7 summit statement, fearing a backlash from China.

The Japanese and U.S. governments were deeply concerned, believing that if the issue was not properly mentioned at the summit level, it would send the wrong message to China.

Suga called his talks with Biden, which took place in between summit discussions among the G7 leaders, a “strategy meeting,” and Suga and Biden confirmed that they would share the work of persuading their counterparts.

In the end, they obtained the other leaders’ approval to include the issue of Taiwan in the communique.

“The discussion ended smoothly, as we insisted that what the foreign ministers had agreed upon was also the basis for the summit meeting,” Suga told reporters after the summit.

Suga was attending a G7 summit for the first time, and seemed out of his element at times. During the group photo session and the welcome party hosted by the British royal family, Suga rarely chatted with other leaders and sometimes looked nervous.

Harsh assessments of Suga’s performance were also heard within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“Compared to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was able to ad-lib his way through the exchanges and was good at diplomacy, this is quite inferior,” an LDP member said.

However, Suga and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who chaired the summit, seemed to be on good terms.

On Friday, when Suga congratulated the twice-divorced Johnson on his wedding in May, Johnson joked that things were going well so far. Suga replied with a smile, “So far?” and the atmosphere swiftly lightened.

At the meeting, Johnson told Suga about the criticism he received over the London 2012 Olympics when he was mayor of the British capital. He encouraged Suga, saying that the London Games were a great success when they were actually held.

A source close to Suga said, “Thanks to Mr. Johnson, G7 support for holding the Olympics was smoothly established.”