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Suga, Biden hold 1st official call, but no mention of Tokyo Olympics

By Taro Ono, staff writer


Leaders of Japan and the United States agreed to work together on a host of global and regional issues, but the Tokyo Olympics did not come up in their first phone call since the president’s inauguration.


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke over the phone for about 30 minutes in the early hours of Jan. 28.


“I would like to deepen my personal relationship with President Biden and work hard to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance,” Suga told reporters at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo after their discussion.


Responding to reporters’ questions, Suga said he and Biden did not discuss the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, postponed until this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as rampant concerns continue swirling about whether they will be held.


It was Biden’s first phone conversation with the leader of an Asian nation since he took office, according to Japanese government officials. Biden described Japan as an “important country” during their talks, a source said.


The two leaders, who agreed to address each other on a first-name basis as “Yoshi” and “Joe,” confirmed they will work closely together to establish a free and open Indo-Pacific region that the Japanese government has been calling for. They also agreed to promote strengthening cooperation between Japan, the United States, Australia and India.


According to a White House statement, Biden expressed the U.S. commitment to provide “extended deterrence” to Japan, including the nuclear umbrella.


The two leaders agreed to work hand in hand to address major global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. And they said they will coordinate efforts to secure doses of coronavirus vaccines for Japan.


Biden invited Suga to participate in an online summit on climate change in April and Suga said he will consider attending, sources said.


Suga told reporters he and Biden decided to arrange for him to visit the United States as soon as possible, while closely monitoring the novel coronavirus infection situation. However, Suga did not give specific dates. He said they will talk about the issue again over the phone if necessary.


The two leaders reaffirmed that the U.S. commitment to Japan’s security under Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty applies to all territories under Japanese administration, including the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.


They also said they will work closely to deal with North Korea, including on the issues of abducted Japanese nationals as well as nuclear and ballistic missile development.

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