Japan and the United States held their first Security Consultative Committee (2+2) meeting since the launch of the Biden administration. The foreign and defense ministers of the two countries issued a joint statement that expresses great concern about Chinese actions to disrupt the international order that has long been in place. Following on last week’s Quad Summit, which brought together Japan, the U.S., Australia, and India, the 2+2 joint statement highlights the two nations’ solidarity toward the realization of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”
At the joint press conference after the talks, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that the Japan-U.S. alliance is important not only for Japan but also for the U.S. In a change from the Trump administration’s “America first” policy, U.S. leaders have clearly indicated the U.S. will be actively involved in Asia. This is extremely important for regional stability, and we welcome it.
This was the first Japan-U.S. 2+2 meeting since 2019, and the first time in seven and a half years for the nations’ top diplomats and defense chiefs to meet in Japan. At the press conference, Blinken expressly mentioned that he chose Japan as his first overseas destination after taking office, hinting that the schedule was set in anticipation of the high-level U.S.-China talks to be held in Alaska on March 18.
This can be said to indicate that the Biden administration considers China policy its highest priority issue, although there are a range of views on the administration’s China policy.
It is important that Japan not return to the thinking it had during the Cold War era that “everything will be okay if we rely on the United States.” The U.S. does not have the power it used to. Solidarity among countries founded on democracy and a market economy is critical to stabilize the international order.
Japan must also do its fair share. At the meeting, the leaders reaffirmed that the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture fall under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty’s provisions that oblige the U.S. to defend Japan. It will not be possible for Japan to stand idly by while the U.S. military takes action, however.
At the press conference, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi emphasized that “Japan and the United States confirmed that they remain opposed to any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration [of the Senkaku Islands].” Japan should be responsible for that first of all.
At the talks, the leaders also set aside time to discuss the Taiwan situation as well as initiatives to denuclearize North Korea and resolve the abductions issue. We would like to point out that the Senkakus, Taiwan, and the South China Sea should be considered together for the stability of East Asia.
In addition, the leaders agreed to start concrete work to strengthen the alliance, including cooperation in space, cyber, and other areas that span multiple domains. Japan is called to steadily perform the tasks it has been assigned with sights on the next round of talks set to be held within the year.