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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Thursday Briefing: Japan’s Leader Visits Washington

WorldAsiaThursday Briefing: Japan’s Leader Visits Washington


President Biden welcomed Fumio Kishida, Japan’s leader, for a state visit yesterday in Washington. A few hours after we send this newsletter, the two will sit down for a state dinner in Kishida’s honor, a distinction the U.S. reserves for only its closest allies.

The ceremony was meant to show Japan’s importance to the U.S. It’s all part of a broader regional outreach intended to counter China, which included recent war games with South Korea. Later today, both will meet with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines for talks that represent a more aggressive effort by the U.S. and its allies to isolate China.

Biden and Kishida announced a range of moves to enhance military, economic and other kinds of cooperation. Biden said the U.S. and Japan would create an expanded defense architecture with Australia, participate in military exercises with Britain and explore ways for Japan to join a U.S.-led coalition with Australia and New Zealand. He also said the U.S. would include a Japanese astronaut on a trip to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

Officials also said that Biden is trying to solidify the U.S.-Japan relationship as much as possible before the election in November. Many in both Washington and Tokyo are worried that Donald Trump, whose unpredictability had kept many world leaders on edge, could return to power.

A steel deal: Looming over the state visit is Biden’s opposition to a $14 billion bid by Nippon Steel, a Japanese corporation, to acquire the Pennsylvania-based U.S. Steel. Union workers in the state are against the deal, and their votes will be crucial to Biden’s re-election bid.

The state dinner: There will be a stylized California roll and steak with sesame sabayon on the menu for the official meal, with a “bounty of spring” theme. Paul Simon will perform.


The polls have closed in South Korea’s general election and official results are expected this morning. But exit polls suggest that President Yoon Suk Yeol and his party are headed for a crushing defeat.

Exit polls by three major TV stations predicted that Yoon’s People Power Party and an affiliate would win no more than 105 of the 300 seats in the National Assembly. The opposition leader Lee Jae-myung’s Democratic Party and a partner were projected to garner as many 197. A separate poll predicted a similar outcome.

Lee’s party portrayed the election to South Korean voters as an opportunity to punish Yoon for issues that range from rising consumer prices to accusations of corruption and abuse of power. The strategy seems to have paid off. A loss this dramatic would make Yoon a lame duck for the rest of his five-year term.


Xi Jinping met with Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s former president, in Beijing yesterday. It was the first time that a Chinese leader had met a former president of Taiwan on Chinese soil. The move sent a signal that China was willing to engage with Taiwan, but only on its terms.

In remarks, Xi praised Ma as a patriot who had promoted “peaceful development” across the Taiwan Strait, and expressed Beijing’s position that Taiwan must acknowledge that it is a part of China. Ma reaffirmed the stance that both sides should accept that they are part of one China, even if they differ on what that means.

Paris F.C., a second-division French soccer club, stopped charging for most tickets late last year. The move, which will cost the club about $1 million, is an effort to bring in bigger crowds and nurture long-term loyalty.

The tactic seems to have worked: Crowds are up by more than a third. Games that have been scheduled at times that appeal to school-age kids have been the best attended, indicating that the club is succeeding in attracting a younger demographic.

But the experiment may have broader implications for the world of sports, which is now largely a television business. If sports are content, then part of that content is provided by cheering fans in stadiums.

How then, my colleague Rory Smith wonders, should fans be categorized? Are they observers required to pay for the privilege? Or should they be considered part of the production, and perhaps even be paid to attend?



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