French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Tokyo on Friday to attend the opening ceremony of the pandemic-postponed Olympics, which is taking place under strict virus rules.
Paris will host the next edition of the summer Games in 2024, and Macron’s meetings in Tokyo will include talks with International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach.
The French president is one of just a handful of foreign dignitaries in town for the opening ceremony, after organisers stripped back the usually lavish affair and limited attendance.
Only around 950 people will be in the stands, including US First Lady Jill Biden, who arrived in Tokyo on Thursday night.
Virus rules have also forced Macron to reduce his delegation to a minimum, and he is travelling with just a single minister.
His two-day trip will include a reception with Emperor Naruhito before the opening ceremony, and talks on Saturday with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, two years after his first official visit to Japan.
The two leaders are expected to discuss the situation in the Indo-Pacific region in the face of growing maritime and military pressure from China, as well as bilateral economic ties.
Macron is also planning to raise the issue of parental abduction in Japan, which does not offer joint custody for children in cases of divorce or separation.
The subject has been in the headlines since a French father in Tokyo began a hunger strike to win access to his children, who he says were abducted by their Japanese mother.
Vincent Fichot has not seen his two children in nearly three years and began a hunger strike outside the Olympic Stadium on July 10.
The French president will also get a taste of Olympic sport during his brief trip, with stops at the judo and women’s 3×3 basketball competitions.
Also, US First Lady Jill Biden has arrived at the Imperial Palace for a meeting with Japan’s Emperor Naruhito in Tokyo on Friday, ahead of the opening ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The White House last week said the First Lady will lead the US delegation to the Tokyo Olympics, which President Joe Biden is skipping due to Japan’s COVID-19 lockdown.
“First Lady Jill Biden will travel to the Opening Ceremony of the 2021 Olympic Summer Games,” the White House said. The ceremony takes place July 23.