China and North Korea were at the top of the agenda as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III sat down with their Japanese counterparts, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, Tuesday, March 16. During a joint press conference, the U.S. and Japanese representatives explained the Indo-pacific region security atmosphere surrounding the talks and the uppermost issues on each country’s list of concerns.
Foreign Minister Motegi opened with prepared remarks that set the stage for those that followed. His overall description of the strategic Indo-Pacific environment was, as he put it, of a “completely different dimension than where it used to be, and the importance of our alliance has never been elevated to such heights.”
He described the three major outcomes of the discussions, which boiled down to:
- Renewing an “unwavering commitment” to the Japan-U.S. Alliance.
- Reconfirming the application of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. security treaty on the Senkaku Islands and continued opposition to any unilateral action that jeopardizes Japan’s administration of those islands.
- Agreeing to “reinforce…collaboration for deterrence and response capability of the alliance.”
The gravity of the discussions was made clear when Motegi said:
“We reconfirmed the strong commitment of the United States regarding defense of Japan using all types of U.S. forces including nuclear. Second, we conducted extensive discussion on the regional strategic environment on the situation in China. We agreed on the recognition that China’s behavior, where inconsistent with the existing international order, presents various challenges to the alliance and the international community.”
The application of Title 5 of the security treaty between the U.S. and Japan signed in 1960 by Douglas MacArthur includes language similar to that in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization charter. Most Americans probably don’t realize the level of commitment the U.S. holds to our allies in the Pacific. The Japan-U.S. security agreement states:
“Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”
Clearly, Japan’s concern centers on China’s “unilateral action that seeks to change the status quo, including in the East and South China Seas.” The discussion regarding the application of Title 5 also raised the importance of “peace and stability of the Taiwan Straits.” Motegi made a strong case for the “complete denuclearization of North Korea,” confirming the value of the “implementation of the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] resolutions and emphasized continued cooperation between South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.
Secretary Blinken reported that the U.S. had set about “addressing core security concerns, including North Korea’s nuclear weapons program” and maritime security across the region as well.” He raised the issue of Burma being a problem with its military suppressing peaceful protesters. Blinken echoed the sentiments of Foreign Minister Motegi concerning China, adding, “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.”
During the question and answer period, Secretary Blinken was asked about the threats made by the sister of the North Korean “Dear Leader.” Blinken provided a thoughtful answer, explaining, “That’s why we’ve come to this region. That’s why we’ve come to Japan, precisely to listen to our allies and to discuss how collectively we might seek to address the threat from North Korea.” He reiterated that the U.S. was making a thorough review of its policy toward North Korea. Liberty Nation covered this story when the North Korean leader’s sister fist made the threat.
Dan Lamothe, a national security writer for a popular Washington newspaper, asked if Secretary Austin agreed with the assessment made by Admiral Davidson, commander of Indo-Pacific Command, that the Chinese would be in a position to launch a military operation against Taiwan in six years. Austin deflected the timeline part of the question, but said, “as Secretary of Defense, my job is to make sure that we are as ready as fast as we could possibly be to meet any challenge that would face us or the alliance.”
The meeting touched on all the significant issues that most policy experts believe to be the most timely and important. The U.S. team did a good job of assuring Japan of continued support and commitment, and that is what they were there to do.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
Read more from Dave Patterson.