By Kiyoshi Takenaka
(Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told the United Nations General Assembly on Friday Japan is determined to host the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 after the games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Games were originally scheduled for this summer, but were put off for a year in March by the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government.
“In the summer of next year, Japan is determined to host the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games as proof that humanity has defeated the pandemic,” Suga said in a recorded message.
“I will continue to spare no effort in order to welcome you to Games that are safe and secure,” Suga said in his debut speech to the United Nations as Japan’s new leader.
Suga became prime minister this month after Shinzo Abe stepped down because of poor health.
Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday proposed cutting back the number of staff at next year’s Summer Games and shortening the opening period for training venues, as part of a plan to hold a streamlined event amid the pandemic.
Suga also told the U.N. assembly he is ready to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without any preconditions to resolve the long-running issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the North decades ago, reiterating the stance of his predecessor.
“Establishing a constructive relationship between Japan and North Korea will not only serve the interests of both sides but will also greatly contribute to regional peace and stability,” he said.
In the video message, Suga also told the U.N. meeting Japan will work to ensure equitable access to coronavirus treatment and vaccines for people in developing nations.
“Japan fully supports the development of therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics, and works towards ensuring fair and equitable access for all, including those in developing countries,” he said.
As part of its steps to help developing countries hit by the pandemic, Japan is offering up to $4.5 billion in emergency loans, Suga said.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by David Dolan, Tomasz Janowski and David Brunnstrom)