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What's the beef?: Untouched burgers at Japan-US summit talks spark speculation online

In this photo posted on U.S. President Joe Biden's Twitter account, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, right, and President Biden are seen sitting for a meeting at the White House in Washington on April 16, 2021. Burgers can be seen served on the table.

TOKYO -- Speculation is circulating on social media as to why Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden did not touch the burgers prepared for their lunch meeting during Suga's visit to the White House to hold his first in-person talks with his American counterpart.

    Was the reason because their discussion heated up as the prime minister described? Or was it because President Biden was careful about taking his masks off in the middle of a pandemic?

    The burgers were served during a roughly 20-minute, one-on-one meeting accompanied only by their interpreters on April 16. In a photo released with President Biden's tweet, Suga and Biden are seen sitting at either end of a rectangular table, and in front of them sit burgers, coffees and other items. While there is a relatively long distance between the two, Biden is seen double-masking, while Suga wore an N95 mask provided by the U.S. government.

    Following the closed-door meeting with Biden, Prime Minister Suga told accompanying reporters, "We had burgers prepared, but it (our discussion) heated up so much that we ended up barely touching our food. I believe we were able to build a solid relationship based on mutual trust." He repeated himself, saying, "We were supposed to have a talk while we ate burgers, but we got carried away and didn't touch them. We didn't eat lunch."

    In response to Prime Minister Suga's explanation, social media in Japan was flooded with comments such as, "You know Biden couldn't have eaten (the burger) out in public when he's calling for people not to dine with anyone but their family members," and, "You can tell clearly from (Biden's) double-masking that he wasn't even going to eat (the burger) in the first place."

    In fact, President Biden on Jan. 21 asked Americans to mask up for 100 days as a national strategy following his inauguration, and his administration is still under the mask-wearing campaign. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called on the public to refrain from dining with others except for family members.

    According to a source related to Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tokyo asked Washington to host a dinner or lunch function to form a stronger relationship of trust between the two leaders, but the U.S. government apparently was reluctant. The burgers were seemingly served as a substitute for such an opportunity.

    One social media user wrote, "I wonder if they would have eaten if it was pancakes," apparently referring to Suga's favorite food.

    (Japanese original by Ryuko Tadokoro, Political News Department)

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