TV Asahi’s daily evening news program “Hodo Station” reported on its one-on-one virtual interview with visiting Secretary of State Blinken. The Secretary said he plans to share the concerns the U.S. and Japan have about China “acting more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad,” including with regard to the Senkakus, Taiwan, the South China Sea, and Hong Kong. The Secretary also referred to trade issues, including tariffs and the trade deficit but also “some of the fundamental structural problems that China has not addressed,” including support for state-owned enterprises, technology transfer, and the theft of intellectual property, adding that China is creating an “unequal playing field that is tilted in favor of China and against the interest of American workers.” The Secretary was shown saying: “It’s important that we have an opportunity to speak directly, to speak clearly, and to speak openly, also to demonstrate to our counterparts that there is no difference between what we say in public and what we say in private. The concerns we’ve expressed publicly are the same ones that we will be expressing to them in private…. It’s just important to make sure we understand each other, and in particular that our Chinese counterparts understand the concerns that we have, understand why so many countries are increasingly worried about the actions China is taking.” On North Korea, the Secretary said that after the Biden administration finishes a review of its North Korea policy in the coming weeks, the U.S. will be able to work in close coordination with its partners to deal effectively with the challenges posed by North Korea, including its nuclear and missile programs, abuse of human rights, and abductions.
The network noted that Prime Minister Suga will be the first foreign leader to have an in-person summit with President Biden in April. When asked whether the U.S. will request Japan to beef up the SDF or increase its share of the cost of hosting U.S. forces in Japan, the Secretary said that these decisions have to be made by Japan, but added that the bilateral alliance has been the cornerstone for peace and stability in the region for decades and that “unfortunately, security, freedom, democracy isn’t free, it does come with cost, and cost that we have to bear together in a fair and equitable way.” A commentator said that what the Secretary implied is that Washington wants Japan to not only increase its share of the cost to host the U.S. forces but also boost Japan’s defense capability as a whole, including improving its defense equipment, technology, and research in view of China’s rapid modernization of its military over the last 20 years.