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Suga, Biden reconfirm Senkaku treaty protection in 1st phone talks


Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke over the phone early Thursday, Japan time, and agreed to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance. The phone call, lasting about 30 minutes, was the first direct conversation between the two leaders since Biden took office.

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With China’s increasingly hegemonic moves in mind, Suga and Biden agreed to promote the vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” They also confirmed that the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture are covered by Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which stipulates U.S. defense obligations to Japan.

After the phone meeting, Suga said to reporters, “I would like to deepen my personal relationship with Mr. Biden and work firmly to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance. It was a very good meeting.” The prime minister hopes to visit the United States at an early date to hold a face-to-face meeting with Biden.

During the phone call, the two leaders agreed on the importance of the United States increasing its presence in the Indo-Pacific region, and Biden referred to the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision advocated by Japan. They also confirmed the importance of working together as part of the Quad — Japan, the United States, Australia and India — to address various regional issues.

Biden had also brought up the inclusion of the Senkaku Islands in the treaty obligations during an earlier phone conversation with Suga last November, after the presidential election. This time again, Biden clearly stated his commitment to applying the security treaty to the Senkaku Islands. He also referred to providing “extended deterrence,” meaning the United States will retaliate in the event of an armed attack on allied nations.

Suga welcomed Biden’s decision to return to the Paris Agreement, an international framework to combat global warming, and to retract the U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

The two leaders agreed to work closely to combat the novel coronavirus, saying it was a challenge shared by the entire world. They will also aim to ensure the smooth supply of vaccines from the United States to Japan.

Biden expressed his intention to hold a summit on climate change on April 22, and Suga said he would consider participating. The summit is expected to be held online.

On the issue of North Korea, they confirmed they would cooperate toward denuclearization. Suga requested cooperation in resolving the issue of abductions of Japanese nationals, and Biden indicated his intention to respond. The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were not discussed in the phone call.

According to Japanese government officials, Suga was the first among Asian leaders to hold talks with Biden since his inauguration.

Published : January 29, 2021

By : The Japan News/ANN