The leaders of the United States and Japan emphasized their commitment to countering challenges from China and ensuring a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific region after their first in-person meeting on Friday.
Concerns have been growing over China’s assertiveness in disputed waterways.
“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,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said, speaking through a translator.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, provoking friction with other nations in the region. The sea is also claimed in part by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.
“We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China,” US President Joe Biden said.
Biden also emphasized that the US alliance with Japan and support for shared security is “ironclad.”
The US, a nuclear-armed nation, is a protective power for Japan. Thousands of US soldiers are also stationed in Japan.
In a joint statement released later, the US restated its support for Japan’s defence “using its full range of capabilities, including nuclear.”
The statement also reaffirmed that Washington’s support for Japan under their cooperation and security treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands, a group of Japanese-administered uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
Chinese coastguard vessels have in recent weeks been regularly spotted near the islands, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan, where they are known as Diaoyu/Tiaoyutai.
“Together, we oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands,” the statement reads.
Tokyo has expressed concerns lately about a new Chinese law that allows Beijing’s coastguard to use weapons on foreign ships.
The Japanese premier’s trip to Washington marked the first visit of a foreign head of state or government to the White House since Biden came into office in January.
In Taipei, Presidential Office spokesperson Xavier Chang on Saturday expressed Taiwan’s appreciation to both the US and Japan for reaffirming the significance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, which has become what he called “a focus of the Indo-Pacific region and the world.”
Chang called on the Beijing authorities to shoulder the responsibility to jointly contribute to regional security and welfare.