All national papers reported that Deputy Secretary of State Biegun met with Vice Foreign Minister Akiba on Thursday night at the Iikura House. The two officials reportedly discussed a range of issues, including the rising tension on the Korean Peninsula and China’s enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong. They reportedly confirmed mutual coordination to resolve North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and the abduction issue and to develop treatments and vaccines for the novel coronavirus. This was the first visit to Japan by a senior foreign government official in more than three months, according to the papers. The Deputy Secretary plans to meet with Foreign Minister Motegi, Defense Minister Kono, and National Security Secretariat Secretary General Kitamura today.
NHK carried a similar story this morning, saying that the two high-ranking diplomats shared concern about the situation in Hong Kong and agreed to pay close attention to whether the civil liberties of its people and foreign business interests there will be protected. They also reportedly forged a consensus on taking a concerted approach to deterring China’s maritime advancement.
In related articles, Yomiuri and Asahi wrote that the GOJ took extra care in hosting Deputy Secretary Biegun amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying that strict protocols were implemented to prevent virus infection. The two diplomats reportedly avoided shaking hands and instead elbow bumped during a photo op and used microphones to reduce infection risks. Instead of serving a full course dinner, the Japanese side served pre-arranged bento boxes. The Deputy Secretary and his entourage were also required to take PCR tests prior to departure from the U.S. and upon arrival in Japan and use a vehicle arranged by the U.S. Embassy for transportation. According to Asahi, the Deputy Secretary tested negative in a test administered upon arrival at Yokota AB on late Thursday afternoon. All the U.S. diplomat’s meetings with Japanese officials in Tokyo will be held at the Iikura House. The dailies added that the Japanese government will adopt similar infection-control protocols in accommodating other foreign dignitaries in the future.