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Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga and US President Joe Biden during a joint news conference at the White House in Washington on Friday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Biden, Suga call for ‘peace and stability across Taiwan Strait’

  • First mention of Taiwan in a joint statement by the leaders of the US and Japan since 1969 looks set to infuriate Beijing
  • Two sides also discussed Xinjiang and a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’, Suga says
The United States and Japan called for “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” in a joint statement released after a meeting between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who reaffirmed their commitment to counter China’s “intimidation” in the East and South China seas in wide-ranging talks.

It is the first time since 1969 that the top leaders of the two countries mentioned Taiwan in a joint statement, a move that is set to infuriate Beijing.

“We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” the statement said.

At a joint press conference at the White House on Friday, Suga said the two sides discussed “circumstances in Taiwan and the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region”, but declined to provide details “since it pertains to diplomatic exchanges”.

The two sides also discussed “the free and open Indo-Pacific”, he said.

“We agreed that while Japan and the US will take the lead to promote the vision through concrete efforts, we will also cooperate with other countries and regions, including Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], Australia and India.

“We also had serious talks on China’s influence over the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific, and the world at large,” Suga said. “We agreed to oppose any attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East and South China seas and intimidation of others in the region.”

Tensions in the region have been rising. The People’s Liberation Army on Monday flew 25 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, its largest such incursion to date.


US delegation visits Taiwan as Beijing warns of military action against the island

US delegation visits Taiwan as Beijing warns of military action against the island

An informal alliance between the US, Japan, Australia and India, the Quad – short for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – had rarely taken centre stage in global politics since it was established more than a decade ago, but US engagement with the grouping has emerged as a prominent feature of the Biden administration’s foreign policy.

Biden also explicitly mentioned the need to counter China in areas ranging from the North Korea said the two countries had agreed to work together on security issues related to China and North Korea. He also touted their agreements on joint development of 5G technology, semiconductor supply chains, artificial intelligence, genomics and quantum computing.
“Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for the US-Japanese alliance, and for our shared security,” the US leader said. “We committed to working together to take on the challenges from China and on issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as North Korea, to ensure a future of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

According to the statement, Biden and Suga “affirmed their commitment to the security and openness of 5th generation (5G) wireless networks and concurred that it is important to rely on trustworthy vendors. The United States and Japan will engage with others through our enhanced Global Digital Connectivity Partnership to catalyse investments and to provide training and capacity building to promote vibrant digital economies”.

Biden’s meeting with Suga, his first in-person summit with a foreign leader since taking office in January, included national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, reflecting the wide range of issues under discussion.

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Suga’s delegation included deputy chief cabinet secretary Manabu Sakai, special adviser to the prime minister Masashi Adachi and Shigeru Kitamura, secretary general of Japan’s National Security Secretariat.

The joint statement also reaffirmed America’s support for Japan’s position on a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known to mainland China and Taiwan as the Diaoyu Islands and to Tokyo as the Senkaku Islands.

“Together, we oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands,” it said.

Suga said: “President Biden again demonstrated America’s commitment to the defence of Japan, including the application of article five of the Japan-US Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security for the Senkaku Islands.”

The islands are officially under  Japan’s jurisdiction but claimed by Beijing as Chinese territory.


Gloves off at top-level US-China summit in Alaska with on-camera sparring

Gloves off at top-level US-China summit in Alaska with on-camera sparring
During a visit to Tokyo last month, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed China’s stance towards the islands was an example of its  increasingly “aggressive” actions abroad.

Meanwhile, Biden’s active engagement with the Quad, including his convening of the grouping’s heads of state in March marked the very first time the four countries’ leaders had met as a unit. 

Beijing views the alliance as an “exclusive clique” centred on targeting China, contrary to claims by US State Department spokesman Ned Price that the Quad is “not about any single challenge [or] any single competitor”.

Additional reporting by Owen Churchill and Josephine Ma