Biden Meets Japan’s Prime Minister
President Biden is hosting the Japanese prime minister at the White House.
President Biden welcomed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan to the White House on Friday, using the first visit by a foreign leader during his presidency to underscore the importance of America’s allies as the United States confronts an increasingly aggressive China.
Mr. Suga is meeting with Mr. Biden and top aides, and the two leaders will hold a joint news conference later in the afternoon.
“Thank you for accepting me as the first foreign leader under your presidency,” Mr. Suga said, according to a pool report.
“Freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the universal values that link our alliance that is prevalent in the Indo-Pacific, and this is the very foundation of prosperity and stability of the region and the globe,” he added.
Mr. Suga also met with Vice President Kamala Harris.
For the president, the meeting with the Japanese prime minister is an opportunity to press his counterpart for support in the effort to contain China’s ambitions, both economically and militarily. Mr. Biden has made it clear that he views Chinese influence around the globe as one of the key challenges of his time in office.
“Our approach to China and our shared coordination and cooperation on that front will be part of the discussion,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Thursday. “These relationships have a range of areas of cooperation. It’s an opportunity to discuss those issues in person, and I would anticipate that China will be a part of the discussions.”
For Mr. Suga — who was a senior aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for nearly a decade before assuming the top job last year after Mr. Abe resigned — being the first foreign leader to visit with Mr. Biden is a sought-after honor. He was eager to discuss issues such as trade, the supply chain for technologies like semiconductors and the nuclear threat from North Korea.
Climate change was also expected to be high on the agenda. Next week, Mr. Biden is hosting a virtual summit meeting of 40 world leaders aimed at bolstering global ambition to reduce planet-warming pollution. The Biden administration has also been pressing the Japanese government to stand with the United States in announcing new greenhouse gas emissions pledges.
Mr. Suga has already set a goal for Japan to be carbon neutral by 2050. The Biden administration, however, has been seeking promises for what the country will do this decade.
According to two administration officials, the administration has prodded the Japanese government to cut emissions in half from 2013 levels by the end of the decade, and it was hoping to see an announcement on Friday that Japan would end government funding for the development of coal plants overseas.
Ms. Psaki declined to say whether the two leaders would make a climate change announcement on Friday. But she did say that the subject was likely to come up soon, as Mr. Biden makes further announcements in advance of the summit meeting next week.
“For those of you who are excited about climate, we will have a lot more to say next week,” she said. “It will be a busy week or two on the climate front.”
But how to confront China was expected to overshadow everything else at the meeting between Mr. Biden and Mr. Suga. After four years in which President Donald J. Trump engaged in a raucous relationship with Beijing — threatening tariffs one day, fawning over China’s leader the next — Mr. Biden has made clear that he views the country as the United States’ most significant adversary.
The question for both leaders on Friday will be what Japan and the United States can do to respond to economic, human rights and military provocations that threaten to destabilize the entire region.