U.S., Japan Expected to Affirm Joint Responsibility to Defend Senkaku Islands as Kan’s Visit to U.S. Postponed

Japanese officials confirmed Friday that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and U.S. President Joe Biden will meet in Washington on April 16 instead of April 8 or 9 as originally scheduled.

According to Kyodo News, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato explained at a news conference on Friday (April 2) that Kan’s visit to the U.S. was postponed because both sides needed more time to prepare to ensure the success of the talks.

Sources said the postponement of the visit was proposed by the U.S. side because the Biden administration needed time to deal with the new coronavirus outbreak.

The Japanese side earlier sent a message that Kan would leave Tokyo on April 8 and return on April 11. For the visit, Kan also received the first dose of Pfizer’s New Crown pneumonia vaccine on March 16 and will receive the second dose next week. Officials accompanying him will also receive the vaccine.

The U.S.-Japan summit will be the first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader since President Biden took office. It will be an important opportunity for both sides to strengthen their alliance.

The two sides are expected to confirm cooperation on a wide range of topics, such as maintaining freedom and openness in the Asia-Pacific region, epidemic response, climate change, China issues, and the recent North Korean missile test launch, Kato said.

National security advisers from the U.S., Japan and South Korea will meet later Friday in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss ways to deal with the North Korean issue. North Korea conducted two ballistic missile test launches last week in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Kan and Biden are expected to issue a joint statement after the summit condemning North Korea’s practices and calling on Pyongyang to abide by its commitment to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, Kyodo News quoted a Japanese government source as saying.

In addition, the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands), located in the East China Sea, are expected to enter the discussion between the two sides. The two sides are likely to reaffirm that the Senkaku Islands are covered by Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. The U.S. would accordingly step in to protect the islands in the event of a foreign force attack. The Senkaku Islands have been under Japanese jurisdiction since World War II. However, China also claims sovereignty over the islands and regularly sends maritime police vessels to patrol the waters around the islands to demonstrate China’s sovereignty.

Earlier this week, the Japanese side revealed that the Taiwan Strait issue would also be an important topic of discussion between Biden and Kan. Both sides hope to reach a consensus on the importance of stabilizing the situation in the Taiwan Strait during the meeting. Whether this issue will make it into their joint statement is still under consultation.