TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga highlighted on Friday his resolve for the success of the Tokyo Games, set to open in a week, while seeking support from other Asia-Pacific leaders at an extraordinary meeting.
“I’m determined to ensure a safe and secure Tokyo Olympics by taking the full range of measures” against the novel coronavirus, Suga said in the meeting, held online among leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum member economies.
“I want to send a message to the world that we can overcome the current difficult situation with the efforts and wisdom of the mankind by coming together at a time when the world faces a major challenge,” he said.
Participants at the APEC summit included U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In view of lingering criticism at home and aboard over the holding of the Tokyo Games amid the coronavirus crisis, Suga aims to gain support from the international community again before the sporting event opens, officials said.
A Japanese government source said that leaders who took part in the APEC meeting expressed warm support and hope for the Japanese leader.
The Tokyo Olympics will be held while Tokyo is under the fourth coronavirus state of emergency, which started on Monday.
All competition venues in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures as well as the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido and Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, will have no spectators.
At a meeting on Friday of its task force for promoting the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the Japanese government affirmed a policy of taking all possible measures to hold the Games smoothly and prevent terror attacks.
Also at the APEC summit meeting, Suga said it is important to achieve a free and open order based on rules, apparently with China in mind.
“Japan will strategically promote efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.
It was the first time that 21-member APEC has held an extraordinary summit meeting. A regular summit is scheduled for November.
At the latest APEC meeting, Xi said China has provided more than 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to developing countries and plans to extend 3 billion dollars in international aid over the coming three years, according to Xinhua news agency.
Xi played up China’s “vaccine diplomacy” as the country and the United States are jostling with each other for the leading role in efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
At the Group of Seven summit in June, the United States unveiled plans to supply 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. The G-7 leaders agreed to provide a total of at least one billion doses to the world by the end of 2022, in an apparent bid to check China’s growing influence.
At the APEC meeting, Suga reiterated Japan’s pledge to provide about 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in the country.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the APEC leaders said they will “overcome this health emergency by accelerating equitable access to safe, effective, quality-assured, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines.”
Ahead of the APEC summit, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, chair of the online meeting, held phone talks with Biden, who attended the APEC summit for the first time since taking office.
Ardern and Biden discussed their countries’ “efforts to ensure vaccine availability,” according to a statement issued by Ardern’s office.
Over the past year, the APEC members suffered the worst economic slump since World War II. Their economies are on the mend, buttressed by fiscal spending and monetary easing, but highly infectious variant strains of the coronavirus, such as the delta variant, which was first detected in India, have become a new threat to the economic recovery.
The virus is raging in Indonesia and Thailand among the APEC members.