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Japanese opposition parties rebuke Suga over results of summit with Biden

Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is seen in this file photo taken on March 11, 2021. (Mainichi/Kan Takeuchi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Opposition parties on Saturday criticized Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga over the results of his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, while questioning the reasoning behind the Japanese leader's travel to Washington during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

    Yukio Edano, head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, termed Friday's summit lackluster and said, "I'm not sure why Prime Minister Suga bothered to go (to the United States) in the midst of a coronavirus resurgence."

    "The prime minister has failed to respond to the crisis over the infectious disease," Edano told reporters in Fukuoka Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

    Despite the criticism, however, he acknowledged the leaders' agreement to ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait was a "major achievement."

    Suga and Biden said in a post-summit joint statement that they underscored "the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," a slap at China's pressure on the self-ruled democratic island.

    It marked the first time in 52 years that leaders of Japan and the United States have referred to Taiwan in a joint statement -- a move that immediately drew a protest from Beijing.

    Kazuo Shii, head of the Japanese Communist Party, condemned the Suga-Biden pledge to further strengthen the bilateral alliance, saying such an agreement is "extremely dangerous."

    Despite such negative views, Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the Democratic Party for the People, said he welcomes the two leaders sharing concerns about North Korea's short- and medium-range missiles that can strike South Korea and Japan, two U.S. allies in Northeast Asia.

    Biden's predecessor Donald Trump raised concerns only about a North Korea intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. mainland.

    Meanwhile, the ruling coalition of Suga's Liberal Democratic Party and the junior partner Komeito, commended the first in-person meeting since Suga and Biden took office in September last year and January, respectively.

    LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai, the party's No. 2 in command, said the meeting was effective in terms of deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance.

    "Deepening the personal trusting relationship through in-person dialogue and carrying out frank exchange of views serve the national interest," Nikai said in a statement.

    Referring to China's rising military pressure on Taiwan, Gen Nakatani, a veteran LDP lawmaker and former defense minister, said the joint statement by Suga and Biden will serve as a deterrence against Beijing over Taipei.

    Itsunori Onodera, another LDP lawmaker and former defense minister, said he expects China to oppose the joint statement but that it is important for the two allies to "respond firmly."

    In regard to climate change, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said he hopes increased coordination between Tokyo and Washington will serve as a "driving force" in international efforts to curb global warming.

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