Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Japan leader urges strong partnershi­p in visit to US

- Ellen Knickmeyer, Mari Yamaguchi and Aamer Madhani

WASHINGTON – Calling democracy the foundation for global prosperity, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Friday in a bid to underscore the two countries’ alliance as a counter to an autocratic and increasing­ly assertive China.

The visit was Biden’s first face-toface talks with a foreign leader as president.

Suga and Biden, who wore masks for their meeting in the state dining room in a visit modified by precaution­s against the coronaviru­s, are seeking to challenge 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.

Suga said democracy, human rights and other shared values were “the very foundation of prosperity of the region and the globe.” It was one of many comments seen as a reference to China, which is increasing­ly flexing its economic and military strength internatio­nally. Suga, who is seeking to showcase Japan’s security commitment­s with the U.S., Japan’s only treaty ally, said before his talks with Biden that the trip was meant to “reaffirm the new and tight bond between us” as the U.S. and Japan deal with challenges in the region.

The Biden administra­tion calls managing U.S. policies toward China and the Indo-Pacific the primary challenge for the U.S. That helped guide Biden’s decision, announced this week, to pull U.S. 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,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. Suga, a farmer’s son who rose to Japan’s highest political office 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. The pandemic is changing the normal routine for a visit by a foreign leader, so Biden won’t be hosting Suga for a meal, Psaki said.

Earlier Friday, Suga placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and visited with Vice President Kamala Harris. An honor guard greeted his arrival at the White House.

The months-old Biden administra­tion 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.

 ?? ANDREW HARNIK/AP ?? President Joe Biden, accompanie­d by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, speaks at a news conference Friday.
ANDREW HARNIK/AP President Joe Biden, accompanie­d by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, speaks at a news conference Friday.

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