TOKYO – Donald Trump and Joe Biden: The Japanese frontman has seen them both in action and knows the big differences between their styles.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said Trump is using his “individual personality” to move issues forward, while his successor favors a more collaborative approach.
Biden “is a president who tries to build consensus among allies and like-minded nations in order to move policy forward,” Suga told NBC News in an exclusive interview earlier this week.
“It’s a different kind of political method,” he told Keir Simmons.
Noting that he is on a first name basis with Biden, who calls him “Yoshi,” Suga said he believes the president places “great importance” on relations between the two nations.
“Freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are all universal values shared by Japan and the United States, and we have a great responsibility to disseminate these ideas to our allies, to the countries like-minded and to the rest of the world, ”he added.
In April, Suga became the first foreign leader to meet Biden face-to-face at the White House. When he took power last September, he took over from Shinzo Abe, who in 2016 was also the first foreign leader to meet with Trump and forged close ties with the then president.
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Like his predecessor, Suga faces a delicate balance to keep Japan’s relations with the United States and China on track. But he has been at the forefront of international efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region, and has worked closely with the White House to do so.
Tensions increased earlier this month when Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso said the United States and his country would have to respond militarily if China were to invade Taiwan.
Beijing regards Taiwan as an illegitimate separatist province, part of Chinese territory. When the civil war in China between the Communists and the Nationalists ended in 1949 with the triumph of the former, the latter installed a rival government in Taipei. Since the 1970s, the United States and Japan have officially recognized Beijing as China’s only legal government and have reduced ties with Taiwan to a non-governmental level.
Chinese claims to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are also a long-standing dispute. The group of islets, which China calls Diaoyu, are found off the island of Okinawa in southern Japan.
“Japan’s way of doing things is very different from China’s,” Suga said. “The way things are done through their type of political system is completely different from ours.”
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But as Tokyo prepares to host the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics on Friday, he offered advice to China as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February.
“Personally, I believe the key to beating the coronavirus is through vaccines,” he said. “So for them to organize safe and secure Games, I hope they will work on the vaccine deployment.”
Corky Siemaszko reported from Tokyo, Henry Austin and Laura Saravia reported from London.
Laura Saravia contributed.