Japan PM Suga speaks with Biden, confirms importance of Japan-US ties

Mr Yoshihide Suga (left), in a call with Mr Joe Biden, confirmed the importance of "free and open Indo-Pacific" region. PHOTOS: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday (Nov 12) he spoke with US President-elect Joe Biden by telephone and confirmed the importance of bilateral ties, as well as a "free and open Indo-Pacific" region.

Speaking to reporters at the prime minister's official residence shortly after the call, Mr Suga also said the two leaders agreed to meet in person as soon as possible.

"President-elect Biden said that he looks forward to strengthening the US-Japan alliance and working together on achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific," Mr Suga said to reporters, in separate comments made at the Prime Minister's Office.

China's growing military and economic assertiveness in the region serves as a backdrop for Japan's hopes to see Mr Biden's presidency restore a strong US-Japan alliance.

Mr Biden assured Mr Suga that the security treaty between US and Japan covers East China Sea islands that are also claimed by China.

Japan seeks assurances on the scope of the security treaty every time the US picks a new leader.

Article Five of the treaty obliges both parties to "act to meet the common danger" in the event of an armed attack on either party in territory administered by Japan.

The US recognises the disputed islands as administered by Japan, rather than saying they are part of the country.

Chinese and Japanese government vessels constantly chase one another around the islands, which are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Mr Suga also said he plans on working with Mr Biden on preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus and battling climate change.

Like many other leaders of major democracies, Mr Suga went ahead with the call despite the fact that US President Donald Trump continues to dispute the results of the election.

Mr Suga's predecessor, Mr Shinzo Abe, was the first leader of a major country to meet Mr Trump after his 2016 election, flying to New York for talks before he was inaugurated.

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