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US first lady to visit Japan for 3 days to attend Tokyo Olympics

U.S. first lady Jill Biden arrives in Savannah, Georgia, on July 8, 2021. (Jim Watson/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- U.S. first lady Jill Biden will visit Japan for three days from Thursday to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, hoping to show "the highest level of support" for American athletes and the games, the White House said.

    With concerns lingering over the coronavirus pandemic, the United States will follow "strict protocols and precautions" set by the Japanese government and the Olympic organizers to keep the public, athletes and the delegation safe, the White House said Wednesday in announcing the itinerary of the 70-year-old's first solo trip overseas since her husband Joe Biden was sworn in as president.

    Jill Biden, who served as second lady when her husband was vice president in the Barack Obama administration, will land in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon after stopping in Alaska and will have dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife Mariko Suga.

    On Friday, she is scheduled to hold talks with Mariko Suga at the State Guest House and meet with Japanese Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace before attending the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics as head of the U.S. delegation, according to the White House.

    On Saturday, the first lady will dedicate a room in the chief of mission residence to Irene Hirano, the U.S.-Japan Council's founding president who died last year, and her late husband U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, according to the White House.

    Jill Biden will also host a watch party at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo for a softball game between the United States and Mexico and cheer on American athletes at several Olympic events before departing the capital, the White House said.

    The Tokyo Olympics were postponed last year for 12 months due to the pandemic.

    At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, then U.S. Vice President Mike Pence attended the opening event. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, then Secretary of State John Kerry led the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony.

    In 2012 at the London games, then first lady Michelle Obama represented the U.S. delegation.

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