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International relations

Suga seeks US visit in February for summit with Biden

Japan prime minister to urge caution against pandemic during year-end holidays

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga looks to begin building a trusting relationship quickly with incoming U.S. President Joe Biden. (Photo by Karina Noka)

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that he looks to visit the U.S. in February for a summit with incoming President Joe Biden.

"I'd like to set the date for before the end of February, if possible," Suga said during a recording for the news program "Nikkei Sunday Salon." The interview will be broadcast on Sunday.

His aim is to hold a summit soon after Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20 to build trusting relations with the new president. But rising COVID-19 infections in the U.S. could affect his trip planning. 

"It depends on how the novel coronavirus will settle down," Suga said.

Japanese lawmakers are planning to approve added measures for containing the coronavirus outbreak, such as financial support to stores that shorten their operating hours. Suga signaled plans to submit a bill during the regular session of parliament that begins next month.

"I will do whatever is necessary," he said, adding that "shorter hours are effective." 

The prime minister plans to issue a message addressing the need to contain the spread of infections during the year-end holidays. "I would like to do it at the right opportunity," Suga said.

Japan also will halt the Go To Travel campaign nationwide from Monday until Jan. 11 as part of containment efforts.

Suga did not show his hand as to when he will dissolve the lower house for a snap election. 

"I want to accomplish the work I promised," he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was scheduled to visit Japan earlier this year for a state visit, but that trip has been postponed due to the pandemic. A new date has yet to be decided for his trip.

"We both need to deal comprehensively with the coronavirus," Suga said. "This is not a situation for finalizing a schedule" for the state visit.

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