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US and Japan express concern over China


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized China’s threats to regional stability during bilateral talks in Tokyo on Tuesday, warning that the United States and Japan would push back if necessary. Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with their counterparts in Tokyo for a series of bilateral talks.

This comes just after President Joe Biden met with the leaders of India, Australia and Japan in a virtual summit on Friday, in his first multilateral summit as President. «We believe in democracy and human rights, the rule of law, because we’ve seen how our own countries are stronger because we adhere to those values. And because they’re under threat in many places, including in this region,» Blinken said during a joint news conference in Tokyo.

«China uses coercion and aggression to systemically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,» he added. Austin said that China had spent the past two decades modernizing its military while the US had been focused on the Middle East. «So our goal is to make sure that we maintain a competitive edge over China,» he said. «And for that we developed the operational plans and capabilities to be able to deter any aggressor.»

The strategic environment of the Indo-Pacific has changed in the past few years, said Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, in both military capability and in the balance of power. «The free and open international order is greatly challenged by attempts to change the status quo by force and progress of authoritarian system,» Motegi said.

Washington and Tokyo «agreed that China’s actions, which are not consistent with the existing international order, are presenting various issues against the Japan-US alliance and international society,» Motegi remarked. US and Japan «oppose any attempts to alter the status quo in the area including East China Sea and South China Sea, and shared a serious concern regarding China’s Coast Guard Law,» referring Motegi to a Chinese law enacted in February that allows its Coast Guard to fire on foreign vessels entering disputed South China Sea waters.

Motegi also said the US had reconfirmed its commitment to help Japan defend the Senkakus, a string of disputed islands in the East China Sea which China calls the Diayous and claims as its own. The two countries reaffirmed their commitment to the denuclearization of North Korea, and to create opportunity for further trilateral cooperation between the US, Japan, and South Korea, according to a statement from the US State Department. During the talks, Blinken also emphasized the «powerful and vital» economic relationship between the two countries.

Blinken and Austin are scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga later on their trip, before heading to South Korea to meet their counterparts there. Suga will be the first foreign leader to visit the US under Biden’s presidency, according to a senior administration official.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that the exchanges between the US and Japan should help increase mutual understanding and trust among countries in the region and «not target or undermine the interests of any third party.»