(dpa) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is set to depart for the United States on Thursday for talks with President Joe Biden amid the Covid-19 pandemic and tension with China.
Suga is scheduled to hold a summit meeting with Biden at the White House on Friday, becoming the first foreign leader to meet in person with the new US president, who was inaugurated in January.
The two leaders want to show the strong ties of the Japan-US alliance and their commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, Tokyo said.
Suga and Biden are expected to discuss climate change, the pandemic, issues related to China and North Korea and cooperation over the Indo-Pacific region, the Japanese government said.
“Japan will strategically advance initiatives that protect the free and open Indo-Pacific through collaboration with like-minded countries,” Suga said in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal ahead of his departure.
“A strong Japan is a prerequisite for a well-functioning alliance with the US and the foundation for Indo-Pacific peace and prosperity,” he said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin made their first overseas trip to Japan last month to hold talks with their Japanese counterparts – Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi.
The four ministers reiterated their objections to China’s “unlawful maritime claims and activities” in the South China Sea and shared their concerns about the human rights situation in Hong Kong and China’s western region of Xinjiang, which is home to the Uighur ethnic minority.
Tokyo has expressed concerns about a new Chinese law which allows Beijing’s coastguard to use weapons on foreign ships.
Chinese coastguard vessels were spotted near a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea every day for the past two months.
The Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands are also claimed by China and Taiwan, where they are known as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.