The United States is reaching out to more allies in the Indo-Pacific, hoping to ease tensions in the region amid growing concerns about China and North Korea.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi on Friday and agreed to hold a new round of security consultations soon.
A US Defense Department reading out the call underscored Austin’s “commitment to security and stability in the region.”
According to the statement, the two officials “discussed efforts to deepen defense cooperation to maintain regional resistance”. “He also stressed the importance of closer cooperation between the US, Japan and the Republic of Korea.”
The talks between Austin and Kishi came as the US Secretary of Defense concluded a two-day visit to South Korea for the 53rd US-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting (SCM).
Austin and South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook agreed to expand Seoul’s role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific.
Additionally, a joint communique issued after Thursday’s talks “acknowledged the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits.”
South Korean officials said what role South Korea will play in the Indo-Pacific, or when it comes to Taiwan, remains under discussion. But both Austin and Suh stressed the need to continue cooperation with Japan to better address threats to North Korea and the region as a whole.
Earlier this week, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Taiwan-based research organization that a possible Chinese military attack on Taiwan “would be a major threat to Japan’s territory.”
“The Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and therefore an emergency for the Japan-US alliance,” Abe said.
The former Japanese leader’s remarks sparked anger in Beijing, which summoned Japan’s ambassador for an emergency meeting.
A statement by Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying criticized Abe’s remarks, saying he “openly challenged China’s sovereignty and provided brazen support to Taiwan’s independence forces.”
Last month, a senior US defense official briefing reporters on a new Pentagon report warned that Beijing was “preparing for a contingency to unite.” [Taiwan] coercive and … to be able to resist, delay or otherwise prevent third party interference.”
The Pentagon announced Friday that US defense officials briefed their Chinese counterparts about the report, which they described as a work-level, virtual meeting.
The Pentagon said Tuesday’s briefing was constructive and sought to “build understanding and maintain open channels of communication.”
Defense officials have spoken with their Chinese counterparts for at least the third time since US President Joe Biden took office in January, US officials said.
The Pentagon report also concluded that Beijing is “more willing to confront the United States and other countries in areas where interests differ,” and warned that China has at least 1,000 nuclear weapons by 2030. likely to happen.—