Japan and the United States are arranging a meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Joe Biden in Washington as early as April, Japanese government sources said Monday.
While the coronavirus situation in the United States will be a key factor in whether the summit can go ahead, if realized Suga could become the first foreign leader to meet with Biden in person under his presidency.
The meeting would provide a chance for the two countries to showcase their alliance amid China's increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region, including around the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The planned meeting has yet to be finalized and could be pushed back to May or later, the sources said. The leaders are also expected to discuss plans to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics this summer as well as efforts to tackle climate change.
Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, said there were no concrete plans for Suga to visit Washington but that arrangements would be made as soon as the coronavirus situation allows.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are arranging to travel to Japan next week for talks with their counterparts, according to other Japanese government sources, the first visit by senior members of the administration under Biden, who was sworn in on Jan. 20.
Suga showed eagerness to visit the United States at an early date in his telephone talks with Biden in January.
Biden picked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as his counterpart for what the White House called his "first bilateral meeting" since taking office, but he used a virtual format for the talks.
The 78-year-old president has so far not met foreign leaders in person in Washington or visited other countries as he prioritizes efforts to contain the coronavirus.