U.S., Japan Hold 2+2 Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Talks in Tokyo on March 16, 2021
The United States and Japan expressed concern about the situation in the Taiwan Strait during the so-called “2+2” foreign and defense ministerial talks in Tokyo, and emphasized in a joint statement “the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Blinken and Secretary of Defense John Austin held a joint press conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshichika Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi on Tuesday (March 16) after several meetings to announce their consensus, which also included a recognition that China’s behavior is not only inconsistent with the existing international order, but also poses challenges to the U.S.-Japan alliance and the international community.
Referring to the regional strategic environment, Toshichika Mogi said, “We reaffirmed the application of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to the Senkaku Islands and our continued opposition to any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands. In addition, we also recognize the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
Blinken went on to say that together, the U.S. and Japan support each other’s shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and are also very concerned about China’s human rights violations and undermining of democracy, including “China’s use of coercive and aggressive actions to systematically erode Hong Kong‘s autonomy, weaken Taiwan’s democracy, violate human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert sovereign claims in the South China Sea that violate international law. sovereignty claims in the South China Sea that violate international law.”
Nobuo Kishi mentioned that China’s maritime police law must not be allowed to undermine the legitimate interests of the countries involved, including Japan, and that if this law exacerbates maritime tensions, including in the East China Sea and South China Sea, “that is absolutely unacceptable,” and that he is determined to use all means to protect Japanese territory, while he also “asserted the importance of peace and stability to the Taiwan Strait.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Austin did not mention Taiwan during his speech, but was asked twice during a question-and-answer session with reporters about the Taiwan Strait situation, including whether China’s threats include Taiwan in addition to the Senkaku Islands (which China calls the Diaoyu Islands) and whether he agreed with U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral Davidson’s assessment last week that China could take military action against Taiwan in the next six years.
Austin did not respond directly to either question, but emphasized that the goal of the U.S. Department of Defense is to maintain superiority over anyone who wants to threaten the U.S. or U.S. allies, whether China or others, and that what the U.S. wants to do is develop operational plans and capabilities sufficient to deter any aggressor, and that a significant portion of U.S. capabilities come from the combined forces of allies like Japan.
As for Davidson’s question about the “timeline” of China’s invasion of Taiwan, Austin said he had a good discussion with Davidson during his visit to Japan ahead of Indo-Pacific Command and that he should not get into any hypothetical or speculative questions, and that his job as secretary of defense is to ensure that the United States has sufficient capabilities to meet any challenge to the United States or to the alliance. The U.S.-Japan Security Agreement
In a joint statement issued by the U.S.-Japan Security Council, language related to the Taiwan Strait was placed between the Senkaku Islands and the South China Sea.
The statement said the four ministers discussed the United States’ unshakeable commitment to defend Japan under Article 5 of the security treaty, which covers the Senkaku Islands. “The United States and Japan continue to oppose any unilateral action that seeks to alter or impair Japan’s administration of these islands,” the statement said. The ministers also emphasized the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
A U.S. Department of Defense news release issued Tuesday said that according to senior Defense Department officials, “Japan is very concerned about China’s aggressive actions in the Taiwan Strait and raised the situation in the meeting.”
Nobuo Kishi mentioned in a Twitter post the same day that he expressed his concerns about China’s maritime police law during the U.S.-Japan talks and stressed the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs retweeted Nobuo Kishi’s tweet and thanked him and Austin for their attention to the situation in the Taiwan Strait, “As a freedom and democracy-loving country, Taiwan will continue to work with Japan and the United States to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.”