[The following is the gist of the joint news conference held after the 2+2 meeting of the Japanese and U.S. ministers of foreign affairs and defense on March 16, 2021.]
Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi: The strategic environment of the Indo-Pacific has entered into a completely different dimension than where it used to be, and the importance of our alliance has never been elevated to such heights. At this timing, when the Biden administration is engaged in a series of policy reviews, we were able to hold a Japan-U.S. 2+2 meeting to conduct in-depth discussion on the strategic environment and the policy towards strengthening the deterrence and response capabilities of our alliance. This is extremely significant. [Going forward] we will flesh out the details to strengthen the alliance based on today’s discussions.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken: We made Japan the destination of the first Cabinet-level overseas trip of the Biden administration because the U.S. attaches great importance to the alliance. I feel confident in saying the alliance is stronger than ever.
Free and open Indo-Pacific
Motegi: We agreed that Japan and the United States will continue to collaborate with likeminded nations, including Australia and India, to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Blinken: We share the vision of creating a free and open Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific region is increasingly becoming the center of global geopolitics. So much of the history of the 21st century will be written in this region. There are competing visions for how that story should be written. Japan and the U.S. will cooperate to advocate our shared approach.
Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi: We shared serious concerns about and see eye to eye on China’s Coast Guard Law in light of the intensified activities recently of the China Coast Guard and its stronger cooperation with the military. In relation to this, we reconfirmed the [U.S.’s] involvement in our country’s defense, including the application of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty on the Senkaku Islands. The Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the U.S. military have conducted joint exercises many times in Japan’s southwestern region including near the Senkakus. We intend to continue steadily conducting joint exercises.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin: China is a growing threat. The country has modernized its military and begun to engage in coercive behavior in some cases. We need to maintain a competitive edge over China.
Blinken: China is using coercive methods to threaten autonomy in Hong Kong, democracy in Taiwan, and human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur and Tibet autonomous regions. We will push back if China uses coercion.
Motegi: To realize the full denuclearization of North Korea, we confirmed the importance of complete implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and confirmed that cooperation will continue between Japan and the U.S. and amongst the three countries — Japan, U.S., and South Korea.
Blinken: The U.S. is reviewing its policies toward North Korea and considering all kinds of options. We are looking at all kinds of possibilities, including whether additional pressure measures are needed and whether diplomatic channels would be effective. North Korea is becoming a threat to the entire international community. We have been approaching North Korea through several channels since mid-February to reduce the risk [of escalation] but have not received a response. We will closely cooperate with Japan and South Korea.
Future of Japan-U.S. cooperation
Kishi: Since cross-domain initiatives are important in strengthening the alliance’s deterrence and response capabilities, we will further promote cooperation in the domains of space and cyber. We agreed on the notion that the U.S. military and the SDF need to engage in more sophisticated bilateral as well as multilateral exercises.