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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Regional Reaction to President-Elect Not Always Based on Policies

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Ever since Saturday, international leaders have been congratulating president-elect Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris, and global media have been reporting on local reactions In the Asia Pacific, most of the attention has been somewhat predictable. But not all of it.


More than seven years ago, Joe Biden stopped by an open-air food market in Singapore, where he spent the equivalent of about two U.S. dollars for a couple of lime juices.

That event made the TV news and the front page of the Straits Times yesterday — noting that Biden is “perhaps most fondly remembered by Singaporeans for his surprise pit-stop . . . while he was on his first official visit to the Republic as vice-president.”

Elsewhere online the vendor who served him remembered Biden as “being very cordial and chatty.”

While there have been serious-minded reflections in some regional media, there’s also been an emphasis on local ties — however tenuous.

Take the mayor of Yamato, Japan — a town of 15,000 on the southern island of Kyushu. Yutaka Umeda’s family name includes Chinese characters or kanji meaning plum and rice field — ume and da.

But depending on how you read the characters they can also be read as “bai” and den.” And the mayor’s first name can be read as “Jo.”

So if you read the characters a certain way, that makes him — Jo Bai-den.

And that’s enough to have Kyodo News call the mayor “internet famous.”

The Mayor said he feels close to the president-elect — adding, “Being the president of a superpower like the United States and a mayor of Yamato — the scale is completely different, but I’d like to think of ways to promote the town.”

Apparently, he already has.

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