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Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga said the US and Japan would oppose coercion or force in the South and East China Seas, in unusually blunt remarks about China after his summit with Joe Biden.
Speaking alongside the US president at the White House on Friday, Suga said the two leaders had held serious discussions about China and the “severe security environment” in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We agreed to oppose any attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East and South China Seas and intimidation of others in the region,” Suga said.
The US and Japan are concerned about Chinese military activity near Taiwan in the South China Sea. They are also worried about Beijing’s actions around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that are administered by Tokyo but claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu.
Suga said the leaders also stressed the importance of peace in the Taiwan Strait, in language that highlighted growing concern in the US and Japan about rising Chinese military activity around the island.
He said the two leaders had also reaffirmed the recent statement that their top defence and foreign policy officials had made in Tokyo about “the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait”.
Michael Green, a Japan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Suga’s comments on Taiwan were the most assertive from a Japanese leader since the US and Japan both switched diplomatic recognition of China from Taipei to Beijing in the 1970s.
“There was a lot more nodding to the Taiwan problem than we have seen in a US-Japan summit since 1969,” he said, referring to the summit Richard Nixon held with prime minister Eisaku Sato.