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Japan's foreign minister says Tokyo looks to deepen US ties

Posted November 16, 2020 6:43 a.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2020 7:36 a.m. EST

— Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Monday that Japan hopes to deepen its alliance with the United States under President-elect Joe Biden and do more to get its ally continuously committed to regional security and other key international issues.

Motegi, discussing Japanese diplomacy at the Japan National Press Club, said his country hopes to pursue cooperation with the Biden administration to achieve the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” or FOIP, vision of economic and security cooperation in the face of China's growing assertiveness.

With the U.S. increasingly focusing on how to rebuild its social divide and economy, Japan will have to take more of a share of the Japan-U.S. security alliance, Motegi said.

This would involve not just more spending for hosting the 50,000-plus American troops in Japan under the countries' bilateral pact, but would also mean an increase of Japan’s own military capability and spending, experts say.

At a time when the United States is largely focusing on internal politics, “How to secure the U.S. commitment to international security, climate change and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision is a major diplomatic challenge for Japan,” Motegi said.

Japan has been pursuing the FOIP with the U.S. and they have formed a four-way cooperation that also includes Australia and India. They are trying to bring in other countries in Southeast Asia and beyond that share concerns about China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.

Japan is opposed to any Chinese attempts to “unilaterally change the status quo” by force in the East and South China Seas and has promoted the FOIP concept with the United States to counter China's growing influence. Japan has its own territorial disputes with China over Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea that Beijing also claims.

With the U.S.-China row expected to continue under the Biden administration, Japan, as a key economic partner and neighbor of China, also hopes to play a role in encouraging Beijing to play by international rules and act responsibly as a global giant, Motegi said.

Japan's new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is carrying on the policy and is trying to get more countries to join.

Japan has also been setting up strategic defense partnerships with other Asia-Pacific nations such as Australia, as well as Europe.

Suga is to hold talks with visiting Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday to discuss stepping up bilateral defense cooperation and other regional issues at a time of the U.S. leadership transition.

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