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Biden welcomes Japanese Prime Minister as he tries to send 'clear signal' to China

Biden and Suga said they both aimed to tighten the relationship between the two countries during the daylong visit.
“As you know, this is the first foreign leader to visit me in my presidency and I’m really pleased to welcome such a close ally and good partner,” Biden said during a bilateral meeting in the State Dining Room at the White House.
“The United States and Japan have a big agenda ahead of us. And we are two democracies in the Indo-Pacific region and our cooperation is vital, in my view, and I think in both our views, to meeting the challenges facing our nations and ensuring the future of the region that remains free and open and prosperous,” Biden added.
Suga opened his remarks by acknowledging the shooting in Indianapolis that left eight people dead overnight, saying through a translator that “innocent citizens must not be exposed to any such violence.”
The Prime Minister said the two countries have a bond over their shared values and he was looking to “reaffirm the new and tight bond between us.”
“I wish to spend time with you to, again, confirm the close ties between our two countries. And thank you again for accepting us,” Suga said.
The two leaders are meeting to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, the Biden administration’s North Korea policy review, regional security issues, the climate crisis, relations with China and technology policy, a senior administration official said before the meeting.
But it is China that is expected to be one of the biggest focuses. The leaders are expected to speak in-depth about China, the official said, as the US and Japan “seek to play a steady, careful role to underscore our mutual commitment to maintenance of peace and stability, and to take steps to calm tensions and to discourage provocations.” 
“We’re trying to send a clear signal that some of the steps that China is taking,” including its recent actions in Taiwan’s air defense zone, are “antithetical to the mission of maintaining peace and stability,” the official said.
China sent 25 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Monday, which was the largest breach of that space since the island began regularly reporting such activity in September, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.
“But at the same time, we also recognize the deep economic and commercial ties between Japan and China and Prime Minister Suga wants to walk a careful course and we respect that,” the official continued.
The two leaders will also focus on North Korea, as the US is nearing the conclusion of its North Korea policy review, the official said.
While Japan has been consulted throughout the process, the two leaders on Thursday will have an opportunity to “put the finishing touches on what is an important initiative for the United States,” the official said.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan recently met with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Annapolis, Maryland, in order to discuss the administration’s North Korea policy review. The review included extensive consultations with members of the Trump administration about diplomatic engagements with North Korea. 
“The United States can only be effective in Asia when the US-Japan relationship is strong and Japan is steady and stable,” the official said. 
A part of that relationship is the Japanese relationship with South Korea, which has deteriorated in recent years. It is “concerning” to the Biden administration, the official said, “even to the point of being painful for us, to see relations between Japan and South Korea fall to the current level” and will be a part of their discussion.
“The political tensions are such that we believe it actually impedes all of our abilities to be effective in Northeast Asia and I think the President will want to discuss this in some detail with Prime Minister Suga,” the official said. 
Relations between Japan and South Korea have been at a historic low point amid ongoing disputes over the sensitive historical issues, namely Japan forcing Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II. US officials have said improving relations is central to an Asia policy built around multilateralism.
“We fully understand that this is a bilateral matter between South Korea and Japan,” the official said, “but as a friend of both we have an interest in seeing relations improve between these two great democracies.”
The two leaders are also likely to discuss when the next meeting between Biden, Suga, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia — a group informally known as the “Quad” — will take place, the official said. The group met virtually last month and agreed they would meet in-person before the end of the year, Sullivan said at the time.  
This story and its headline have been updated with further developments Friday.
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