TOKYO • Japan's Defence Minister Taro Kono said he has agreed with his US counterpart Mark Esper that both countries opposed any unilateral attempt to change the status quo in the key waterways of the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Mr Kono shared his view with the US defence secretary at a time when the United States and China are at loggerheads over issues ranging from technology to human rights to Chinese military activities in the disputed South China Sea.
A thorny issue in China's ties with Japan is Beijing's claim to a group of tiny East China Sea islets controlled by Tokyo.
"We agreed that the international community will respond firmly to any unilateral change to the status quo in the South China Sea as well as the East China Sea," Mr Kono said yesterday.
He was speaking online from Guam to reporters in the Japanese capital following his meeting with Mr Esper.
The US has long opposed China's expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea and has sent warships through the strategic waterway regularly.
China claims 90 per cent of the potentially energy-rich sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also lay claim to parts of it.
China has built bases atop atolls in the region but says its intentions are peaceful.