TOKYO — Donald Trump and Joe Biden: Japan's leader has seen them both in action, and knows the big differences between their styles.
Biden "is a president who tries to build a consensus among allies and like-minded countries in order to advance policies," 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 that he believed the president placed "great importance" on the relationship between the two nations.
"Freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law are all universal values shared by both Japan and the United States, and we have a big responsibility to spread these ideas to our allies, like-minded countries, and to the rest of the world," he added.
In April, Suga became the first foreign leader to have a face-to face meeting with Biden at the White House. When he took power last September, he succeeded Shinzo Abe, who in 2016 also was the first foreign leader to meet with Trump and went on to forge close ties with the then-president.
Like his predecessor, Suga faces a delicate balancing act in keeping Japan’s relations with the U.S. and China on track. But he has been on the forefront of international efforts to counter China’s growing influence in the region, and has worked closely with the White House to do this.
Beijing views Taiwan as an illegitimate breakaway province, a part of China’s territory. When the civil war in China between the communists and the nationalists ended in 1949 with the former triumphant, the latter set up a rival government in Taipei. Since the 1970s, both the U.S. and Japan have officially recognized Beijing as the sole legal government of China and reduced ties with Taiwan to a nongovernmental level.
Chinese claims over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands in the East China Sea have also been a long-standing dispute. The group of islets, which China calls Diaoyu, sits off Japan's southern island of Okinawa.
"Japan’s way of doing things is very different from China," 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.
"I personally believe is that the key to beating the coronavirus is through vaccines," he said. "So, in order for them to hold a safe and secure Games, I hope that they work on the vaccine rollout."
Corky Siemaszko reported from Tokyo, Henry Austin and Laura Saravia reported from London.