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Japan says PM Suga plans to meet Biden in US next month

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(COMBO) This combination of file pictures created on March 12, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden speaking on the anniversary of the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 11, 2021, and Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attending a press conference in Tokyo in March 5, 2021. – Japan said on March 12, 2021 Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet President Joe Biden in the United States next month, becoming the first foreign leader to hold face-to-face talks with him. (Photo by Mandel NGAN and Yuichi YAMAZAKI / various sources / AFP)

Japan said Friday Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet President Joe Biden in the United States next month, becoming the first foreign leader to hold face-to-face talks with him.

“If various circumstances allow, Prime Minister Suga will visit the US as early as the first half of April,” top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato told reporters at a daily briefing.

“With this visit, Prime Minister Suga is expected to be the first foreign leader to hold a face-to-face meeting with President Biden,” he added.

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The possibility of Suga’s visit had already been reported in Japanese and US media but without official confirmation.

Japanese officials have made clear that Suga would be keen to meet Biden in person as soon as possible, to reinforce a key alliance, particularly at a time of rising concern about China.

Kato said the summit would involve a discussion about an open and free Indo-Pacific region, coronavirus measures, and climate change.

The final schedule for the trip is still being worked out, he added.

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Suga and the other members of the delegation that will travel to Washington will all be vaccinated beforehand, Kato said.

Japan’s vaccination programme is rolling out cautiously, with just one vaccine so far approved, with around 180,000 healthcare workers having so far received the first dose.

Biden and Suga will speak later Friday as part of a virtual leaders summit of members of the Quad, which groups the US, Japan, Australia and Japan.

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