BY JESSE JOHNSON, STAFF WRITER
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is likely to postpone his first trip to the United States as Japanese leader for talks with President Joe Biden until next year amid concerns over the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, NHK reported Saturday.
Kishida held his first in-person talks with Biden early last month on the sidelines of the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. During those talks, the two agreed on an early meeting in Washington, with hopes of holding the talks before the year’s end on bolstering the U.S.-Japan alliance and cooperating on maintaining a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” amid China’s growing assertiveness.
However, considering the concerning new variant’s spread and the U.S. political situation, Kishida has taken to considering rescheduling the summit meeting until after the new year, NHK reported without citing sources.
The postponement will mean translate to a busy diplomatic calendar for top Japanese and U.S. officials in the first months of the new year.
The two allies are considering holding security talks involving their foreign and defense chiefs in January, local media has reported, citing Japanese government sources.
Arrangements are already being made for Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi to visit the United States for so-called two-plus-two meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Those talks are expected to lay the groundwork for the eventual Kishida-Biden summit and would likely focus on North Korea and maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, where tensions with China have surged amid Beijing’s ramped-up military activities near the self-ruled island. China views Taiwan as a so-called core issue and an inherent part of its territory — a renegade province that must be brought back into the fold, by force if necessary.
The security talks will be the first two-plus-two meeting under Kishida’s Cabinet, which was launched in October.