Despite fears over the COVID-19 outbreak, US first lady Jill Biden is leading her country’s diplomatic team to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, sending a statement of solidarity to a major Asian partner. Biden landed at Yokota Air Base in Japan on Thursday afternoon, wearing a red dress and a face mask, and was received by Japan’s foreign minister as well as US and Japanese base officials, marking the start of a lengthy visit to Japan. Despite public opposition in Japan to hosting large numbers of athletes, staff, and media – more than 11,000 in the athletes’ village alone – dozens of whom have already tested positive for COVID-19 – Olympic and Japanese officials have gone forward with the sporting event.
But, according to officials, President Joe Biden views the Games, which have been postponed due to the virus, as a key opportunity to express support for a longtime ally and trading partner who he thinks will support the US attempts to contain China’s ascent.
Biden had dinner with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, in the evening, her limousine passing by people taking selfies as they approached the magnificent Akasaka Palace.
On the sidelines of the Olympics, Suga is meeting with just about 15 world leaders, compared to earlier expectations of up to 120. In April, President Biden welcomed Suga to the White House.
The first lady’s first solo journey abroad will involve three days on the ground in Japan for the Olympics.
On Friday, she intends to attend the opening ceremony and meet with Team USA athletes, US foreign service personnel, and Japanese Emperor Naruhito.