US stresses commitment to defend Japan in talks

February 09, 2014 - 7:00:44 am
WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday stressed its commitment to the defence of Japan and stability in the Asia-Pacific region against a backdrop of increasingly assertive territorial claims by China.

After a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the importance of the US-Japan relationship, which remains robust in spite of a bump after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a controversial war shrine in December.

Kerry said the United States and Japan were committed to closer security collaboration and stressed the long-standing US commitment to defend Japan if it is attacked.

“I underscored that the United States remains as committed as ever to upholding our treaty obligations with our Japanese allies,” Kerry told reporters after talks with Kishida.

“That includes with respect to the East China Sea,” Kerry said. He reiterated that Washington “neither recognises nor accepts” an air-defence zone China has declared in the region that it disputes with Japan and other Asia nations. Kerry also said the United States would not change how it conducts operations there.

“We are deeply committed to maintaining the prosperity and the stability in the Asia-Pacific,” Kerry said.

The United States flew B-52 bombers through the Chinese air defence zone after it was declared last year. US officials have warned that any declaration by Beijing of another such zone in the South China Sea could result in changes to US military deployments in the region.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, attacked Kerry’s remarks in a statement yesterday, saying China’s air-defence zone was fully in line with international law and norms.  “We urge the US side to stop making irresponsible remarks so as not to harm regional stability and the China-US relationship,” Hong said.

In a separate statement Hong also said that any policy adjustment by the United States in the Asia-Pacific region “must work for regional peace and stability.” 

He was responding to remarks in a February 4 briefing in Washington by Daniel Russel, State Department assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, that the US plans to intensify efforts to rebalance its policy in the Asia-Pacific region.

Kerry said he planned to visit China and other Asia countries next week.

Kishida’s Washington visit comes at a time of growing concerns in Tokyo as to the long-term ability and willingness of the United States to defend Japan in spite of President Barack Obama’s stated policy of rebalancing America’s military and economic focus toward Asia in response to China’s growing clout.