Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Saturday hailed this summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as a success, saying in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly that the host country "achieved what we set out to do" despite the pressures of a public that was divided over holding the games during the pandemic.
In a prerecorded video message, Suga also highlighted the importance of realizing a "free and open Indo-Pacific" amid challenges such as China's growing assertiveness in regional waters and North Korea's recent missile launches.
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics went ahead following a one-year postponement amid surging COVID-19 cases in the capital, a move criticized by many as contradicting the government's request for people and businesses to comply with restrictions.
"While there were various views about holding the games this summer, we, as the host country of the games, fulfilled our responsibilities and achieved what we set out to do," Suga said.
"Many people were deeply moved by the outstanding performances of the athletes, which gave hopes and dreams to everyone across the globe," he said, adding, "Above all, while humanity has been faced with immeasurable hardships, the Tokyo 2020 Games proved to be a symbol of global unity among people around the world."
Without naming China outright, Suga touched on Japan's vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific and called on the international community to "uphold universal values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law that our predecessors have established to maintain peace and prosperity in each region and in the world."
"Japan will closely collaborate with like-minded countries and regions and work strategically to fulfill this vision," he said.
The speech came as Suga was in Washington for a summit with Australia, India and the United States, his final overseas trip before stepping down as prime minister next month.
The countries, including Japan, known as the Quad, are stepping up cooperation to counter China's military and economic influence, including by increasing the production of COVID-19 vaccines for vulnerable populations.
Suga condemned North Korea's test-firing of two ballistic missiles last week as a "clear violation" of U.N. Security Council resolutions, saying such activities "pose a threat to the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community."
"I strongly hope that North Korea will engage in diplomatic efforts and the dialogue between the United States and North Korea on denuclearization will progress."
Suga said Japan is "determined to play a proactive role in the maintenance of international peace and security and in establishing a rules-based international order" as it seeks to become a nonpermanent Security Council member in 2022.
As the only country to be the victim of atomic bombings, Japan will "contribute to international efforts toward the realization of a world free from nuclear weapons," he said.
On international efforts to fight COVID-19, Suga reiterated Japan will donate additional vaccines to other countries bringing its total contribution to 60 million doses.
He also said the country will take the lead in reducing carbon emissions and setting international rules for the cross-border transfer of data.