Washington (dpa) – Against the backdrop of mounting tensions with China, the US has extended its security guarantee for Japan – including the use of nuclear weapons if necessary.
According to the US government, the protection promise also extends to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Archipelago in the East China Sea, which China is also claiming for itself. Following a symbolic visit by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House on Friday, US President Joe Biden emphasized that both states were determined to jointly “face the challenge of China.” It’s about ensuring the future of a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific region.
With its nuclear arsenal, the US is Japan’s protective force, and thousands of US soldiers are also stationed on the island. The special role of the alliance was also reflected in the fact that Suga was the first foreign guest since Biden took office on January 20 to receive him personally at the White House.
A joint statement after the meeting said the US would not hesitate to stick to its pledge to defend Japan “using the full range of capabilities” – this includes “nuclear” capabilities. In view of China’s drive for power in the Indo-Pacific region, Suga affirmed that both countries oppose attempts to “change the status quo through force or coercion.” This is especially true of the South China Sea and the “harassment” of neighboring countries, the translation said.
The US condemned “any unilateral action aimed at undermining Japanese governance of the Senkaku Islands.” The uninhabited islands are known in China and Taiwan as Diaoyu and Diaoyutai respectively. Recently, more and more Chinese ships have appeared in the waters around the archipelago. Given the presumed gas and oil reserves, the rocky islands are of great strategic importance. Taiwan also claims it for itself.
The East China Sea is roughly the name given to the waters between China, South South Korea, Japan, and Northern Taiwan. The South China Sea, on the other hand, lies roughly between South China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Biden’s government has been tough on China since taking office, giving the country a prominent position in its foreign policy: the US president sees the world’s second-largest economy as the most powerful competitor and the greatest geopolitical challenge. Under Biden, American warships have stepped up operations around Taiwan and in the South China Sea. On the other hand, Chinese fighter pilots violate the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone almost every day.
Biden and Suga have not directly responded to Beijing’s attempted military intimidation against Taiwan, which the Communist People’s Republic views as part of China. However, in their joint statement, the two countries stressed “the importance of peace and security” in the Taiwan Strait. Biden and Suga also announced their intention to work with South Korea to meet the challenge of the North Korean nuclear program.