WASHINGTON: The United States and Japan vowed Friday to stand firm together against an assertive China and to step up cooperation on climate change and next-generation technology as President Joe Biden made his first summit a show of alliance unity.
Waiting nearly three months for his first foreign guest due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Biden told Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga that Japan enjoyed “our iron-clad support” on security issues and beyond.
“We’re going to work together to prove that democracies can still compete and win in the 21st century,” Biden, affectionately calling the Japanese leader “Yoshi,” told a socially distanced news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
A joint statement called for “candid conversations” with China and did not hold back, raising concerns over Beijing’s growing maritime moves, its clampdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and growing tension over Taiwan.
The statement reiterated that the US-Japan Security Treaty covers the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands — one of several areas in the region where Beijing, which calls them the Diaoyu, has increasingly shown its might.
The United States and Japan “recognize the importance of deterrence to maintain peace and stability in the region,” the statement said.
“We oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea,” it said, in a line highlighted by Suga.
As Beijing steps up air incursions in Taiwan, Biden and Suga in the statement emphasized “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” and encouraged “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”
While cautiously worded, it was the first time a Japanese leader has joined a US president in a statement on Taiwan since the allies separately switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in the 1970s.
Taiwan is an especially sensitive issue for Beijing, which claims the self-governing democracy.
The forthright statement comes despite Japan’s efforts in recent years not to antagonize China, its top trading partner, including by not joining Western nations in sanctions over human rights.
Suga echoed Biden’s themes as he described the US-Japan alliance as the “foundation of peace and stability” in the region.
“Freedom, democracy, human

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