- The Washington Times - Friday, April 16, 2021

President Biden held his first in-person meeting with a foreign leader on Friday when he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House for discussions on China, North Korea and progress against the pandemic.

“We are two important democracies in the Pacific region,” Mr. Biden said as he met with Mr. Suga and other Japanese officials in the State Dining Room. “Our cooperation is vital.”

All of the officials around the long conference table wore masks.

Later, at a Rose Garden press conference, Mr. Biden said they had reaffirmed the two nations’ commitment to present a unified front against China and North Korea.

“We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China and on issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as North Korea, to ensure a future of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Suga said the regional security environment “has become increasingly severe.” He called the Japanese-U.S. relationship a “cornerstone for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.” 

The president said they agreed to form a new partnership on shared technology to promote development of secure 5G networks and semiconductor supply chains. He said they further committed to taking “aggressive” action on climate change, agreeing to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and to meet goals for 2030 on emissions.

The prime minister also expressed condolences for a mass shooting earlier Friday in Indianapolis that left at least eight people dead.

The two leaders also presented a united front on Taiwan, a highly sensitive territorial issue for China, whose military has been conducting overflights of the democratically ruled island. Mr. Suga said there is an “agreed recognition” between the U.S. and Japan on the issue, but he declined to offer details of their talks.

They also announced a $2 billion Japanese investment in 5G telecommunications to support networks outside the influence of China’s mammoth Huawei Technologies.

Former President Trump, citing national security concerns, banned Huawei from buying U.S. technology and blocked American companies from buying its components. The Biden administration hasn’t decided whether to keep those bans in place.

Mr. Biden is almost finished with a review of his administration’s policy toward North Korea, a key security concern for both leaders.

Due to precautions against COVID-19, Mr. Biden has yet to take any trips abroad to confer with allies. The president tested negative for the coronavirus on Friday before the meeting, and Mr. Suga, 72, received both of his Pfizer vaccinations in Tokyo.

In an unusual sequence, the White House had Vice President Kamala Harris meet first with Mr. Suga on Friday morning at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. No explanation was offered for why the president wasn’t the first one to greet the prime minister upon his arrival.

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