Japan foreign minister says Blinken gave US commitment to defend Japan

Japan's new Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi (above) arrives at Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's official residence in Tokyo on Nov 10, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's new foreign minister, Mr Yoshimasa Hayashi, said on Saturday (Nov 13) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured him in a phone call that the US commitment to defending Japan, including southern islets claimed by China, was unwavering.

Japan's ties with China have been plagued by a territorial dispute over a group of Japanese-administered islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, as well as the legacy of Japan's past military aggression.

"Secretary Blinken stated that US commitment to defending Japan, including the application of Article 5 of the Japan-US Security Treaty for the Senkaku islands, was unwavering," Mr Hayashi told reporters.

The treaty's article 5 says each party recognises an armed attack on territories under Japan's administration would be dangerous to its peace and safety, and it would act to meet the common danger.

Mr Hayashi said he and Mr Blinken shared the view that the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait was important.

Cross-strait tensions have been rising in recent months, with Taiwan complaining for a year or more of repeated missions by China's air force near the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.

Mr Hayashi and Mr Blinken strongly opposed China's unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas, and agreed on close cooperation between the two allies in responding to issues regarding China, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.

Mr Hayashi, in his first news conference as foreign minister on Thursday, had stressed the importance of constructive, stable relations with China.

"Ties between Japan and China are increasingly important not just for our two countries, but for the peace and prosperity of the region and the international community," Mr Hayashi said.

"We need to assert and ask for responsible behaviour while at the same time, maintain dialogue and firmly cooperate on shared challenges," he said. He did not elaborate on what he meant by responsible behaviour.

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