WASHINGTON, USA (AP) — President Joe Biden is welcoming Japan’s prime minister to the White House today in his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader, a choice that reflects Biden’s emphasis on strengthening alliances to deal with a more assertive China and other global challenges.
Biden and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga also look to counter messaging from Chinese President Xi Jinping that America and democracies in general are on the decline, after the political turmoil and international withdrawal that marked Donald Trump’s presidency.
The Biden administration calls managing US policies toward the Indo-Pacific, where China under Xi is flexing growing economic and military power, the primary challenge for the United States. That helped guide Biden’s decision, announced this week, to pull US troops out of Afghanistan and free the administration to focus more on East Asia.
For Biden and Suga, “our approach to China and our shared coordination and cooperation on that front will be part of the discussion,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. The two will discuss other regional security issues, including North Korea’s nuclear program.
Suga, a farmer’s son who rose to Japan’s highest political office after an early stint as a worker in a cardboard factory, succeeded boss Shinzo Abe last September, after long serving as his chief Cabinet secretary.
Suga expressed eagerness to meet with Biden early on despite global COVID-19 lockdowns. He looks to showcase security commitments with the United States, Japan’s only treaty ally.
Heading to Washington, Suga told reporters he aimed to build “a relationship of trust” with Biden.
The months-old Biden administration, for its part, looks to Suga to keep going on alliance-strengthening moves by both countries.
The two governments have been working to strengthen technology supply chains independent of China during a shortage of semiconductors that’s worrying businesses around the world. Japan is expected to announce an investment in 5G cellular networks, boosting alternatives to China’s network, as part of that supply chain cooperation.
Both countries are expected in coming days to make deeper commitments to cutting climate-wrecking fossil fuel emissions, in line with Biden’s climate summit with 40 world leaders next week.