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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has called off a planned visit to India and the Philippines in the wake of a resurgence of covid-19 infections in Japan, reports in Japanese media quoting unnamed sources said on Wednesday.

India and the Philippines are also grappling with their own surge in COVID-19 cases, which may have played a part in the decision to cancel the trip, the Japan Times said in its report.

Suga’s trip was to be his first to India since taking office following Shinzo Abe’s resignation in August 2020. The visit had been scheduled from late April to early May and was intended to reaffirm Japan’s cooperation with the two countries to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific as countries in the region were looking at ways to counter China’s aggressive rise and military buildup.

In India, Suga was to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi for discussions on boosting bilateral collaboration in areas including outer space and cyber security, the Japan Times said. Through the meeting with Modi, Suga also planned to cement further a security framework consisting of Japan, India, Australia and the US — collectively known as the “Quad" — seen as a counterweight to China’s growing clout in the region, the report said. Japan and India have also decided to postpone their foreign and defense ministerial talks scheduled this weekend in Tokyo due to a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in India, it said.

Suga’s visit to the Philippines was to mark the 65th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the Japan Times said. The recent spike in covid-19 cases in Japan has strained the medical infrastructure some areas, prompting the government to consider imposing a fresh state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures, it said.

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