- Biden holds first call with premier Suga since inauguration
- Contested islands have triggered tension for Japan and China
President Joe Biden reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to defend uninhabited islands controlled by its ally Japan and claimed by China that have been a persistent point of contention between the Asian powerhouses.
Biden’s pledge, made in his first call since taking office with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, poses the risk of the U.S. becoming embroiled in any potential conflict between the Asian neighbors. The two leaders spoke in the early hours of Thursday Japan time, according to a statement issued by Foreign Ministry.
“President Biden expressed his unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan, including the application of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to the Senkaku islands,” the ministry said. Biden also expressed commitment to “extended deterrence,” both governments said in separate statements, a term that refers to the potential use of nuclear weapons to defend an ally.
Vessels from Japan and China often come into close contact around the East China Sea islands -- called the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China -- raising concerns of a bigger confrontation. China this month passed a law allowing its coastguard vessels to fire on foreign ships, in a development that could ratchet up tensions.
The White House said in its statement that Biden and Suga discussed “the United States’ unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan,” specifying that this covers the Senkaku islands.