U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on Tuesday called for deeper economic and security ties with Japan.
Blinken made the call as he and Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, seek to use their first trips abroad to strengthen Asian alliances in the face of China’s assertiveness.
Their visits to Tokyo and Seoul, first overseas visit by top cabinet members of President Joe Biden’s team, follows a virtual summit last week of the leaders of the U.S., Japan, Australia and India (the Quad alliance).
Beijing looms large over the meeting, with issues on the agenda ranging from freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas and semiconductor supply-chain security, to the North Korean nuclear threat and the military coup in Myanmar.
“We really reaffirm the fact that the alliance is as we’d like to say the cornerstone of our peace, security and prosperity.
“The economic relationship between the U.S. and Japan is, as you know very well, one of the strongest in the world,” Blinken told a group of Japanese business leaders.
North Korea was also in sharp focus after the White House said Pyongyang had so far rebuffed efforts to engage in dialogue.
North Korea warned the new U.S. administration against “causing a stink” if it wants peace, North Korean state media reported.
At the opening of a “2+2” meeting Blinken said he wanted to work with Japan and allies on the denuclearisation of North Korea. The “2+2” meeting was between Blinken, Austin and Japan’s foreign and defence ministers.
Earlier in the day Blinken said Tokyo and Washington shared a commitment to democracy, human rights and rule of law and said they were “under threat in many places, including in the region, whether it’s in Burma or whether in different ways, China.”
After the Seoul leg, Blinken would fly to Alaska, where he would be joined by the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, for their first in-person talks with Chinese counterparts.
The talks were expected to address other items raised during the Quad summit, including the commitment to boost COVID-19 vaccine supplies in Asia and climate change.
Motegi said Blinken expressed support for the staging of Tokyo Olympics during their bilateral meeting.
But Blinken sounded non-committal in his remarks to Tokyo-based U.S. diplomats, saying the summer Games “involve planning for several different scenarios,” and that whenever and however, Team U.S.A ends up competing, it will be because of you.”
The secretaries were expected to make a courtesy call on Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, who was set to visit the White House as the first foreign leader to meet Biden in April.
Both officials would leave Tokyo for Seoul on Wednesday and hold talks with counterparts in the South Korean capital until Thursday.