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Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga. Photo: STR/JIJI Press/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is planning to host Japan’s prime minister at the White House as soon as this April, the first in-person foreign leader visit of his presidency, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: An invitation to Yoshihide Suga would telegraph to allies and potential adversaries, including China, that the U.S.-Japan alliance will remain the linchpin of the post-World War II security framework in the Pacific.

  • The invite also would signal a partial return to normalcy as to how the Biden administration conducts foreign policy during the pandemic, with the new president beginning face-to-face meetings with foreign leaders in the Oval Office.
  • The White House declined to confirm the upcoming meeting, which has not been finalized and could slide to later in the spring, with the state of the pandemic a key factor.

Driving the news: Biden plans to participate in the first leaders' gathering of the so-called Quad this month, joining a virtual conference with the leaders of Japan, India and Australia, Axios reported last week.

  • Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that meeting, saying, “It will be four leaders, four countries, working together constructively for the peace, prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific.”
  • China doesn’t welcome the summit, and on Sunday its foreign minister, Wang Yi, called it “group politics" and “selective multilateralism," according to Xinhua.

Flashback: The first foreign leader to call on President Trump was British Prime Minister Theresa May on Jan. 27, 2017. Her visit included lunch and a joint press conference.

  • President Obama also picked Japan for his first visit from a head of government, hosting Prime Minister Tara Aso on Feb. 24, 2009. While he welcomed Aso to the Oval, he did not extend the diplomatic trappings of lunch or a joint press conference.
  • Trump hosted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago, making him the first foreign leader to visit the former president's Florida club. They played a round of golf on Feb. 11, 2017.

The intrigue: Foreign leaders' visits are always diplomatic dances with both sides working carefully on the choreography.

  • The biggest prize is a state dinner, which Obama extended to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November of his first year, and Trump gave to French President Emmanuel Macron in April of his second year in office.
  • Suga would not normally be eligible for a state dinner, since they usually are reserved for heads of state. In Japan, that's Emporer Naruhito.

What we’re watching: Suga faces political challenges at home, so any perks Biden extends — such as a formal (or working) meal, or a well-staged photo-op — will be monitored as a signal of his tacit support for the prime minister.

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

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