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Japan PM Suga kicks off Olympics diplomacy, to meet U.S. first lady

Baku, July 22, AZERTAC

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Thursday began a series of meetings over the coming days with foreign dignitaries attending the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, among them U.S. first lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, according to Kyodo News.

The leaders of about 15 countries and international organizations are slated to attend the event at the National Stadium on Friday evening, which will be held without spectators from the general public as the capital remains under a COVID-19 state of emergency.

Suga is receiving the foreign dignitaries at Akasaka Palace, a neo-baroque state guest house originally built as the crown prince's residence in 1909.

The prime minister and his wife Mariko will have dinner on Thursday evening with U.S. President Joe Biden's wife, who is leading the American Olympic delegation.

An educator who continues to work as a writing professor at a community college, Jill Biden is visiting Japan for the first time since her husband took office in January. She is scheduled to meet Emperor Naruhito along with other guests at the Imperial Palace on Friday.

The 15 or so world leaders attending the opening ceremony are down from the roughly 40 that attended the same event for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

A senior ministry official said the recent spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants had led many to cancel their trips.

About 70 Cabinet-level officials are also set to visit Japan, though Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, has said the number may not be finalized until the last minute.

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