Japan and the United States jointly criticized China’s “coercion and aggression” in Asia on Tuesday.
The statement came as senior officials from both countries held their first in-person meeting since President Joe Biden took office in January.
The meeting in Tokyo and a planned stop in Seoul, South Korea are an effort by the Biden administration to re-establish relationships with allies in Asia. Some are worried after four years of uneven relations under the Trump administration.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed security and other issues with Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.
Blinken said democracy and human rights in Asia are being threatened. He added that the U.S. and its allies will push for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The American diplomat said the Biden administration is committed to work with U.S. allies as they face threats from China and North Korea – with its nuclear weapons program.
“We will push back if necessary, when China uses coercion and aggression to get its way,” he said.
In a joint statement released after the talks, the ministers shared strong worry over Beijing’s human rights violations. It condemned China’s behavior in the South China Sea and China’s actions over the Japan-controlled East China Sea. China has made claims over islands in both areas. The statement also called for “peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait.
Blinken and Austin also agreed with Japanese officials to work together on the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. They will also work together on the situation in Myanmar after its military coup and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.
On Tuesday, one day after their arrival, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister warned the U.S. to “refrain from causing a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the next four years. She also criticized the U.S. and South Korea for holding military exercises.
Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, is a senior official who handles inter-Korean affairs. She also said the North would consider leaving a 2018 agreement on reducing military tensions.
Kim Yo Jong’s statement was North Korea’s first comments to the Biden administration.
Importance of visit to Japan
Biden’s decision to send top ministers to Japan as their first overseas visit means a lot for Japan. The country considers its alliance with the United States its most important international relationship.
Before the official start of the meeting, Blinken said “it is no accident that we chose Japan for the first Cabinet-level overseas travel” of the Biden administration. He added that he and Austin were “here to reaffirm our commitment to the alliance and to build on it.”
Blinken also said that the U.S. and Japan reaffirmed the importance of their three-way partnership with South Korea. He did not discuss the difficult relations between Japan and South Korea over World War II-related issues.
Austin said the allies need to develop operational abilities to answer quickly a security threat from China and other nations.
He called for “the spirit of teamwork.”
Japan’s constitution bars the use of force in settling international disputes. Any attempt to increase its military capability is a sensitive issue in Asia. But Defense Minister Kishi said Japan will work with the U.S. and increase its readiness.
Japan is also in a difficult diplomatic situation because its economy, like those of other countries in Asia, heavily depends on China.
From Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Tuesday said U.S.- Japan agreements “should not target or harm the interests of third parties.”
Later Tuesday, the American officials met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. He is expected to visit Washington sometime in April to meet with Biden. He will be the first foreign leader to do so since Biden became president.
Blinken will meet senior Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska, on his way back to Washington. And Austin will go from Seoul to New Delhi for meetings with Indian leaders.
I’m Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
coercion - n. to make (someone) do something by using force or threats
commit - v. to decide to give your support, or effort to someone or something in a serious or permanent way
stability - n. the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change
stink - n. an unpleasant situation
overseas - adj. travelling to a foreign country
reaffirm - v. to restate one's commitment to someone or something
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