Prime Minister Suga Boldly took his place among G7 stars and returned with big wins for Japan
Choosing the perfect outfit for a night at the beach is never easy.
Japan’s First Lady Mariko Suga made a wise choice when she arrived to attend an outdoor performance at a seaside theater in Cornwall.
She chose an elegant cream two-piece suit, which seemed to go with the balmy summer evenings next to Carbis Bay.
Ms Suga’s outfit looked rather modest in the face of the shocking pink dress worn by Carrie Johnson, the British Prime Minister’s new wife, which nudged the executives’ wives as they walked to the show – a musical on the marine environment.
Next, at a beach party, G7 leaders enjoyed a mouthwatering menu of scallops, crab claws, and mackerel with a main course of steak, lobster, fries, and purple sprouted broccoli and salted beets.
Yoshihide Suga, dressed in a formal suit, appeared as a slightly awkward figure at the party. As he greeted the other guests, he seemed unsure whether to shake their hands, bow the Japanese way, or bring his palms together the Indian way. Namaste greeting.
Party with the stars
It was Mr. Suga’s second major overseas trip as ruler of Japan, following a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House in the spring, and it brought him in close contact with major stars, including Queen Elizabeth II, now 95.
During a photoshoot with the guests, she joked, “Are you supposed to look like you’re having fun?
The Queen’s remark made the other leaders laugh, but Mr. Suga, who stood stiff a few yards from Her Majesty, appeared to miss the joke.
While not by nature a person who looks relaxed at parties, Mr. Suga can rack up an impressive list of achievements from the G-7 event.
For example, he walked away with clear endorsements of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, including enthusiastic support from French leader Emmanuel Macron, who is set to host the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
M. Suga and M. Macron also agreed on closer cooperation on security, with France due to sending its navy deeper into the Indo-Pacific region.
During a meeting with Prime Minister Johnson, leaders discussed the deployment of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, which will travel to Japan later this year. They agreed it would be a pivotal moment for defense cooperation between the UK and Japan.
Mr Johnson thanked Prime Minister Suga for his support for the UK’s bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he said will further strengthen trade ties between the UK and Japan.
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There was also a short but fruitful face-to-face meeting between Mr Suga and President Biden, as well as opportunities for dialogue with representatives of the countries invited to Cornall, including South Korea, which had the status of observer.
Despite the problems in Japan-South Korea relations, Prime Minister Suga and President Moon Jae-In managed a one-minute exchange of words in which they said they were happy to see each other.
There was no trilateral meeting between the United States, South Korea and Japan.
However, patient diplomats from the US State Department persuaded the Korean side to accept a statement who “reaffirmed the commitment to close cooperation between and among the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan on a wide range of issues, including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
South Korea, as an observer country, was not invited to contribute to the final G7 communiqué. Its Foreign Ministry is still determined to develop closer relations with China, and President Xi Jinping to be invited to visit Seoul as soon as the Covid situation stabilizes.
One of Japan’s other major victories was the announcement of a global infrastructure plan, to provide countries with an alternative to doing business with China.
Environmentalists warn that China often pushes projects that contribute to global warming, such as coal-fired power plants or dams that cause deforestation.
As part of plans to ‘supercharge green growth’, G7 members will provide funding for infrastructure, from railways to wind farms. Japan is particularly well placed to identify viable projects for the program. His sogo shosha trading companies have decades of experience in infrastructure works.
Mr. Suga hopes that Japanese multinational companies will benefit from an increase in green investments. It could also spur more digitization in Japan itself, which lags behind in some areas of IT.
Prime Minister Suga also received unanimous support from the G7 for the program he promoted to persuade rich countries to contribute more financially to the global immunization program called COVAX, run by the World Health Organization.
A recent fundraiser organized by Mr. Suga raised two and a half billion dollars and the G7 agreed to donate one billion doses of vaccine to the poorest countries.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged leaders to ensure that 70% of the world’s population is vaccinated by the next G7 summit in Germany next year.
Origin of Wuhan
Dr Tedros also appeared to endorse US and Australian requests for further investigation into allegations that the G7 virus may have emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan.
Referring to the millions of people who have died around the world due to COVID, Dr Tedros said: “It is very tragic and I think the respect that these people deserve is to know what is the origin of this virus, so that we can prevent it from happening again. “
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the initial WHO study into the origin of COVID-19 “highly deficient” and President Biden has ordered US intelligence services to determine the source.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said discussions in Cornwall on what the event’s final communiqué should say about China had been “very exciting and interesting” and underlined her view that the G7 should seek to find a balance.
Ultimately, the the closing document emphasized “the shared agenda and democratic values ” G7 countries and their commitment to upholding the rules-based international system and international law.
Regarding China, they said “we will continue to consult on collective approaches to challenge non-market policies and practices that undermine the fair and transparent functioning of the global economy.”
The statement also called on “China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially with regard to Xinjiang” and called for a high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong.
The Americans might have wished the language on China was even more robust, but as Secretary of State Blinken told Fox News on Sunday, the last time the G7 met in 2018, there was no mention of China in its summary.
Mr. Blinken said the Cornall meeting demonstrated that democracies “can unite and act for people in real ways” and underscored the G7’s commitment to “build back better for the world”.
Author: Duncan Bartlett
Duncan Bartlett is a regular contributor to Japan Forward. He is editor-in-chief of Asian Affairs magazine and associate researcher at the SOAS China Institute at the University of London. He currently teaches diplomacy and international relations in the Economist Executive Education course, The New World Order. Find his articles on Japan and East Asia on JAPAN Onward, on this link.