NHK reported this morning that Prime Minister Suga and President Biden held their first teleconference since the President took office from shortly before 1 a.m. on Thursday and agreed to further strengthen the bilateral alliance and work closely to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific. They also reportedly affirmed close cooperation on global issues, including the coronavirus and climate change. The President reportedly invited Suga to attend an online summit on climate change slated for April, and Suga responded by saying that he will consider attending if circumstances allow. In addition, the network said the President mentioned that the Senkaku Islands fall under Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and confirmed the U.S. commitment to providing extended deterrence to Japan.
According to the network, they also agreed on cooperation with Australia and India, and agreed to work closely to urge North Korea to abide by UNSC resolutions and denuclearize. Suga reportedly asked for the U.S.’s understanding and cooperation in resolving the abduction issue as soon as possible, and the President expressed his support. On the possibility of Suga visiting the U.S., the two leaders reportedly agreed to make arrangements as soon as possible while taking into account the COVID-19 situation. The network said the two leaders decided to call each other “Yoshi” and “Joe” from now on. Suga reportedly told reporters after the talks: “This was our second conversation since the President was elected, and we were able to hold more substantial discussions than last time. I hope to deepen my personal relationship with President Biden and work hard to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance. We had a very good talk.“
All national dailies carried reports on the Suga-Biden teleconference, with Sankei saying that although the GOJ had hoped that Suga would speak with President Biden after his sessions with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, the U.S. leader apparently elected to reach out to the French and Russian presidents before Suga in order to rectify the trans-Atlantic alliance that was damaged under President Trump and revive the New START Treaty with Moscow. The daily added that while the Japanese leader is anxious to visit Washington next month for an in-person summit, the U.S. side is “not enthusiastic” about arranging summits between the “elderly” President and Suga or any other foreign dignitary amid the coronavirus pandemic.