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TOKYO—Secretary of State Antony Blinken, standing in Tokyo, fired rhetorical salvos at Beijing in a symbolic opening act of the Biden administration’s diplomacy abroad.
“China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” Mr. Blinken said at a news conference. “We will push back if necessary on China’s coercions or aggressions.”
Mr. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were in Japan Tuesday on the first foreign trip by members of President Biden’s cabinet. They said the U.S. and Japan would bolster deterrence to meet challenges from China.
Discussion about China took up much of a 90-minute meeting with Mr. Blinken, said Japan’s foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi.
Mr. Motegi said both sides shared concerns about a new law that allows the Chinese coast guard to use military force to defend national sovereignty. Tokyo fears Beijing might use force to take islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Japan but claimed by China.
Mr. Austin said the U.S. military needed to respond to the rapid advances made by Beijing as a fighting force over the last two decades. “Our goal is to make sure that we maintain a competitive edge over China, or anyone else that would want to threaten us or our alliance,” he said.
The U.S. and Japanese officials didn’t detail any new initiatives, but in a joint statement Japan said it would boost its defense and the allies said they would build partnerships with other democracies. On Friday, Mr. Biden spoke by video link with the leaders of India, Australia and Japan, a group known as the Quad that has taken on new significance as a counterweight to China.