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U.S. signals surprise over Japan PM Suga’s intention to resign

Kyodo News reported from Washington that the USG has apparently been caught off guard by news that Prime Minister Suga intends to resign, with one official expressing surprise at the development on Friday and showing interest in who will succeed him. Noting that the Biden administration has been spending months strengthening the alliance with Japan amid efforts to counter China’s assertiveness, Kyodo wrote that James Schoff, an expert on U.S.-Japan relations, expressed disappointment over Suga’s abrupt decision not to run for re-election as leader of Japan’s ruling LDP on Sept. 29, meaning he will step down as prime minister. “The Japanese government will have to start over with the Biden administration, which is a little disappointing, frankly,” said the senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank. But he played down the possible impact on bilateral relations, as the development came less than one year into the Biden presidency. “I suppose it’s manageable at this early stage in the Biden term,” he added. 


NHK’s Washington Bureau chief Takagi reported that the Biden administration has yet to officially respond to Suga’s announcement that he will not run in the LDP leadership election. He noted that the Biden administration has been consistently supportive of the Suga administration on matters such as the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics amid the COVID-19 outbreak and that Prime Minister Suga was the first foreign leader to hold an in-person meeting with President Biden. The reporter expressed the view that the Biden administration has placed emphasis on Japan in view of the increasing importance of the alliance in countering China’s rise. He said the Biden administration will need to start from scratch in building a relationship with the new Japanese leader, adding, however, that the U.S. has been consistent in its belief that no matter who the Japanese leader is, the U.S.-Japan alliance remains solid. He said that the USG is likely to keep a close eye on political developments in Japan for the time being.


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