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Iran Press TV

US, Japan agree to strengthen military ties under Biden

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 24 January 2021 9:06 AM

The United States and its Asian ally Japan have agreed to strengthen their military alliance under the new administration of US President Joe Biden, in an apparent effort to further challenge China's sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Biden's Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Japanese counterpart Nobuo Kishi spoke on a phone call early Sunday, according to Japan's Defense Ministry.

The two diplomats agreed that Article 5 of the US-Japan security treaty, which obliges Washington to respond to an attack on Japanese-administered territory, applies to East China Sea islands as well.

Japan has long been locked in a dispute over a small group of uninhabited islands in the sea, known respectively as the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands.

China maintains that it has indisputable sovereignty over the islands, but the Japanese government regards them as a part of its territory.

Austin expressed opposition to China's activities in the region, where both Chinese and Japanese ships conduct daily exercises regularly.

Former President Donald Trump had repeatedly criticized the decades-old treaty with Japan as "unfair." He said that "if someone attacks Japan, we go after them and we are in a battle, full force, in effect. If somebody should attack the United States, they don't have to do that. That's unfair."

The treaty, signed after Japan's surrender in World War II, commits the United States to defend Japan. Tokyo, in return, provides military bases that Washington uses to project power deep into Asia.

Austin and Kishi also agreed that a plan to move a controversial US Marine base from the center of a crowded city on Okinawa to a more remote area was the only way of resolving the problems associated with the base.

China, in the meantime, has introduced a new law that allows its coast guard to open fire on foreign vessels deemed to pose threats to its territories.

The two diplomats also discussed North Korea's nuclear program, agreeing to cooperate on working toward the complete and verifiable abandonment of Pyongyang's arsenal.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed earlier this month to strengthen his country's military capabilities and nuclear arsenal.

Kim has previously described Washington as "the fundamental obstacle" to the development of North Korea.

Only days before Biden's inauguration, Kim said that Washington's hostile policy toward Pyongyang "will never change, whoever comes to power."

North Korea has long been under harsh sanctions by the United Nations (UN) and the US over its nuclear and missile programs.

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