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US President Joe Biden and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands as they attend a bilateral meeting at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will meet with US President Joe Biden on Friday. Although they met on several occasions in 2022, including in Tokyo and in New York, this meeting will be Kishida’s first at the White House. Plans for a visit a year ago were derailed by the pandemic.

Kishida arrives at a moment of political weakness. After the assassination of former PM Shinzo Abe in July, Kishida has had to fend off domestic criticism of his decision to hold a state funeral for Abe, deal with public anger over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s ties to the Unification Church (or the “Moonies”), and tame rising inflation. But he hasn’t had much success. His approval ratings began to nosedive in July and by year-end were at rock bottom for a Japanese prime minister, in the low 30s.

Kishida will probably enjoy being away from the full-contact sport of Japanese domestic politics during his trip and instead being back in the diplomatic limelight. He served as Abe’s foreign minister for nearly five years, so he is very comfortable in that more civilized milieu.

To get a preview of Kishida’s meeting with Biden, we had a chat with David Boling, Eurasia Group’s lead Japan analyst.

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