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Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin to visit Japan in mid-March 

Saturday’s Nikkei wrote that Secretary of State Blinken and Secretary of Defense Austin will visit Japan in mid-March in their first overseas trips as the members of the Biden administration. The paper speculated that the secretaries are planning to visit Japan on March 15-17 and may also visit South Korea and Australia. The paper wrote that State Department Spokesperson Price did not provide the details of their trips during a press briefing on Thursday but underscored the United States’ deep commitment to the Indo-Pacific region. The paper speculated that the secretaries decided to visit Japan despite travel restrictions due to the pandemic based on the view that it is important to coordinate with Japan and other nations in the region to develop strategies against China. The paper also wrote that Japan welcomes the secretaries’ planned trip to Tokyo as a good opportunity to demonstrate to the international community its strong alliance with the United States. 

 

Nikkei wrote that the United States and Japan held online security discussions on March 4. According to the State Department, the two nations shared their deep concerns over China’s coast guard law and reiterated their strong opposition to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force. The paper wrote that Washington and Tokyo have repeatedly confirmed since January that the Senkaku Islands fall under the scope of Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which stipulates the United States’ obligation to defend Japan. The paper speculated that Tokyo is hoping to send the message to the world that the United States is committed to defending the Senkakus even in events that are not categorized as “contingencies,” such as intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters. 

 

The paper also conjectured that the division of security roles between the United States and Japan will be an issue for future discussions between the two nations because the Biden administration, which gives priority to domestic issues such as the pandemic and political divisions at home, may have little capacity to focus on international security cooperation. There is speculation in Japan that Washington may urge Japan to increase its contribution to security cooperation. The paper also speculated that Washington and Tokyo will need to coordinate their response to human rights violations in China. The paper wrote that Japan may have to make a difficult decision on the extent to which it will act in concert with the United States because although Washington has denounced China’s human rights violations in Hong Kong and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Japan has strong economic ties with China. 

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