Biden Will Meet Japan’s Yoshihide Suga in His First In-Person Meeting With a Foreign Leader. Here’s What to Know

President Joe Biden will waive the usual video call for his first in-person meeting with a foreign master on Friday, when Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is fully vaccinated , convenes Biden at the White House.

A brand-new president’s first congregating slit with a foreign manager is usually set aside for top collaborators. Biden’s predecessor President Donald Trump maintained his first get-together with British “Ministers ” Theresa May( though he assembled former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for an informal 90 -minute conversation at Trump Tower in New York before his inauguration ).

Experts say that Biden’s selection to meet Suga before other world leaders shows that he attends some of the most important issues facing his administration — including how to deal with China–as being are contained in the Indo-Pacific region.

” Biden’s decision to hold his first in-person summit with Suga sends a strong signal about Japan’s importance as a partner in dealing with some of the biggest challenges facing the United Nation and the importance of ensuring that the Indo-Pacific region in Biden’s foreign policy ,” says Kristi Govella, an associate professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

Countering Trump’s” America first” isolationism, Biden has obliged mending ties with collaborators a priority since his inauguration. On Mar. 12, Biden met a virtual conference with the leaders of Australia, Japan and India–the firstly summit for the leaders of the so-called “Quad” strategic faction. Days later, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Japan and South Korea on the Biden administration’s first Cabinet-level trip abroad, in sessions that ought to have dubbed the 2-plus-2.

” Biden wants to revive U.S. networks of influence “thats been” shattered by Trump’s spotty tactics in diplomacy ,” Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Tokyo campus, tells TIME.” He is announcing the U.S. is back in Asia and will emphasize multilateralism .”

The U.S. liaison with China doesn’t look set to improve significantly in the near-term, though. Relations sank to a decades-low nadir during the Trump administration, and high-level convenes between China and the U.S. in Alaska last-place month descended into finger-pointing and brawling. The U.S. excoriated China for its threats against Taiwan and its crackdowns in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, while a top Chinese mediator lectured the Americans on hasten the questions and other U.S. failings.

Tensions with China have given restored importance to Washington’s alliance with Tokyo. Here’s what to expect from the summit.

What’s on the agenda for Biden and Suga?

Biden, 78, and Suga, 72, are expected to cover a wide variety of topics including climate change, COVID-1 9, fiscal ties, engineering and security issues. But how to work together to deal with China, which the U.S. finds itself increasingly at odds with, is likely to be an overarching theme.

” In calls of the substantial importance of the see, I guess everything is all about China ,” Yoshikazu Kato, a research fellow at the Rakuten Securities Economic Research Institute in Tokyo, tells TIME.

China’s territory assertions in the East and South China Seas are an increasing point of tension between the U.S. and China and a major security concern for Japan. Harmonizing to the Japanese broadcaster NHK World, Chinese basins enrolled Japan’s territorial waters more than 10 durations this year around quarrelled islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Suga Blinken Austin Eugene Hoshiko–POOL/ AFP/ Getty Images Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga( R) poses with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken( C) and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin( L) during a courtesy call at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on March 16, 2021.

Taiwan is likely to be a main major topic at the end of the debates. Antagonisms over the island, which China considers a breakaway district, have increased as China increases armed activity in the area.

Biden may also seek to address a” originating irritation over variations in appraises finesse and Tokyo’s hesitant commitment to human rights and democracy ,” says Kingston.” Japan supportings human rights and democracy but is not prepared to risk anything in support of those values .”

The U.S. and various other countries have slapped Chinese officials with sanctions over deteriorating political naturalness in Hong Kong and the medicine of the Uighur ethnic minority in China’s northwest Xinjiang region, but Japan has not followed suit. China’s Foreign Minister alerted Japan during a phone call on Apr. 5 against imposing punitive measures–and Japan is understandably cautious about irritating its largest trading partner.

Read More: Yoshihide Suga Is Japan’s New Prime Minister. Here’s What That Entails for the U.S .

What does the Biden meeting mean for Suga and Japan?

A senior Japanese statesman told TIME that the meeting is a chance for the countries to” show the world that the free and open system works and democracy and rule of law count .”

The summit may also furnish an opportunity for Suga, who was largely untested in foreign affairs before stepping into the role of Prime Minister, to show his mettle. He may hope that the meeting will boost his notoriety at home, where he inherited a domestic plan submerge by the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s biggest ever financial slump and the adjourned Tokyo Olympics–set to go ahead in July despite opposition from the majority of members of the Japanese public. His approval rating has tumbled over public exasperation with his government’s response to the COVID-1 9 pandemic, among other issues.

suga-vaccine Kyodo News/ AP ImagesJapanese “Ministers ” Yoshihide Suga receives his first quantity of Pfizer’s COVID-1 9 inoculation at National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo on March 16, 2021.

The visit offers Suga” a prized opportunity to boost his credentials as an adept steward of the U.S.-Japan alliance, at a time when domestic political support for his administration has shrunken ,” says Mireya Solis, the director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Washington D.C.-headquartered think-tank the Brookings Institution.

Not all experts expressed the view that site visits will pay off. With so many problems at home,” this is not good timing for Suga to visit the U.S .” says Kato.” Suga’s see to the U.S. will not be that popular domestically, it is not contribute to improving his very low popularity .”

Read More: Yoshihide Suga Will Succeed Shinzo Abe as “Ministers “. What’s Next for Japan ?

What will be the outcome of the Biden and Suga summit?

A seam announcement is expected to be issued following the meeting, and the communique issued after last month’s 2-plus-2 engagements may stipulate some clues about what will be included. That statement” underscored the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait ,” raised concerns about subject of human rights in Xinjiang and Hong kong residents and declared America’s” unwavering commitment” to come to Japan’s defense if need be.

Pundits say that it would be significant if the statement testified support for Taiwan. It has been decades since U.S. and Japanese leaders addressed the importance of Taiwan’s security in a seam missive.

But experts say that Japan’s financial dependence on China means that it can only push Beijing so far. Solis, of the Brookings Institution, says that Suga will” likely seek a strong message of deterrence towards China on the maritime land but will tread carefully on sensitive issues–Taiwan, sanctions on human rights violations–to avoid a sharp deterioration of relations with Beijing .”

Suga is also expected to invite Biden to this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, according to the Japanese media.

Whatever the outcome, the gather observes a major change in U.S. foreign policy from that of the Trump administration.” American allies in Asia will welcome increased engagement and predictability under the Biden administration ,” says Govella,” though there is lingering expressed concerns about the willingness and ability of the U.S. to play a strong leadership role, committed its hectic domestic statu .”

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