Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet the US President Joe Biden in Washington in the first half of April, Tokyo said on Friday.
Suga will become the first foreign leader to hold talks with the new US president, who was inaugurated in January, at the White House, Japanese Government spokesman Katsunobu Kato told newsmen.
Suga’s meeting with Biden would take place amid concerns over China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We hope to further strengthen bilateral ties including the Japan-US alliance and confirm close cooperation toward realising a free and open Indo-Pacific,’’ Kato said.
Biden and Suga are due to take part in a virtual meeting with the leaders of India and Australia later on Thursday.
It will mark the first time that the four leaders meet in the so-called Quad grouping, which is short for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
“Biden is making this one of his earliest multilateral engagements talks on the importance we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,’’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when the meeting was announced.
Tokyo is particularly concerned about a controversial new Chinese law which allows Beijing’s coastguard to use weapons.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday that the law does “not target any specific country’’.
Chinese coastguard vessels were often spotted near a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, a source of diplomatic tension between Beijing and Tokyo.
The Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands also claimed by China and Taiwan, where they were known as Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.
Ahead of Suga’s visit to Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin are scheduled to kick off a two-day visit to Japan on Tuesday.
The two will hold their fist in-person meeting with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi.