President Biden welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House on Friday, using a foreign leader’s first visit during his presidency to highlight the importance of America’s allies as the United States grapples with a China increasingly aggressive.
Mr. Suga is meeting with Mr. Biden and his key associates, and the two leaders will hold a joint press conference later in the afternoon.
For the president, the meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister is an opportunity to put pressure on his counterpart to support him in the effort to contain China’s ambitions, both economically and militarily. Mr Biden has made it clear that he sees Chinese influence around the world as one of the main challenges of his tenure.
“Our approach to China and our shared coordination and cooperation on this front will be part of the discussion,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday. “These relationships have a range of areas of cooperation. This is an opportunity to discuss these issues in person, and I expect China to be part of the discussions. “
For Mr Suga – who was senior assistant to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for nearly a decade before taking the top post last year after Mr Abe’s resignation – to be the first foreign leader to visit to Mr. Biden is a sought-after honor. He was eager to discuss issues such as trade, the supply chain for technologies like semiconductors and the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Climate change was also expected to be a priority on the agenda. Next week, Biden will host a virtual summit meeting of 40 world leaders aimed at boosting global ambition to reduce pollution from global warming. The Biden administration has also pressured the Japanese government to rally with the United States in announcing new commitments on greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr Suga has already set a target for Japan to be carbon neutral by 2050. The Biden administration, however, has sought promises of what the country will do this decade.
According to two administration officials, the administration pushed the Japanese government to halve emissions from 2013 levels by the end of the decade, and it was hoping to see an announcement on Friday that Japan would end government funding for the development of coal-fired power plants. abroad.
Ms Psaki declined to say whether the two leaders will make a climate change announcement on Friday. But she said the topic is likely to come up soon, as Mr Biden will make further announcements ahead of next week’s summit.
“For those of you who are excited about the climate, we will have a lot more to say next week,” she said. “It will be a busy week or two on the climate front.”
But how to face China was to eclipse everything else during the meeting between Mr. Biden and Mr. Suga. After four years in which President Donald J. Trump engaged in a boisterous relationship with Beijing – threatening tariffs one day, flattering China’s leader the next – Mr Biden has made it clear he considers the country as the most important adversary of the United States.
The question for the two leaders on Friday will be what Japan and the United States can do to respond to the economic, human rights and military provocations that threaten to destabilize the entire region.