The Chinese Embassy in Washington has sharply criticized a joint US-Japanese declaration on Saturday. "These statements go well beyond the normal development of bilateral relations," it said in a press release. "They are harmful to the interests of a third party, to mutual understanding and trust between the countries of the region, and to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region."
Against the background growing tensions with China had the United States on Friday their security guarantee for Japan renewed - if necessary also with the use of nuclear weapons. According to the US government, the protection promise also applies to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku archipelago in the East China Sea, which China also claims for itself.
After a symbolic visit by the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to the White House, the US President Joe Biden stresses that both states are determined to jointly "face the challenge posed by China". It is about guaranteeing the future of a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific region.
"Using the full range of skills"
With its nuclear arsenal, the USA is Japan's protective power, and thousands of US soldiers are also stationed in the island nation. The special role of the alliance was also expressed in the fact that Suga was the first foreign state guest since Biden took office on January 20 to be personally received by him in the White House.
After the meeting it was stated in a joint statement that the US would "without hesitation" stand by its obligation to defend Japan "using the full range of capabilities" - this also applies to "nuclear" capabilities.
With a view to China's drive for power in the Indo-Pacific region, Suga affirmed that both countries opposed any attempts to "change the status quo through force or coercion." This applies in particular to the South China Sea and the "intimidation" of neighboring countries, he said, according to the translation.
The US side condemned "any unilateral action aimed at undermining Japan's administration of the Senkaku Islands." The uninhabited islands are in China and Taiwan known as Diaoyu or Diaoyutai, respectively. Recently, more and more Chinese ships have appeared in the waters around the archipelago. Given the presumed gas and oil deposits, the rocky islands are of great strategic importance. Taiwan also claims it for itself.
Roughly speaking, the East China Sea is the name given to the waters between China, the south of South Korea, Japan and the north of Taiwan. The South China Sea, in turn, lies roughly between southern China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Biden sees China as the number one geopolitical challenge
Biden's government has been tough on China since it took office and has given the country a prominent position in its foreign policy: The US president regards the world's second largest economy as the most powerful competitor and the number one geopolitical challenge. Under Biden, US warships have increased their operations around Taiwan and in the South China Sea. Chinese fighter pilots, on the other hand, violate Taiwan's air defense identification zone almost every day.
Biden and Suga did not comment directly on Beijing's attempted military intimidation against Taiwan, which regards the Communist People's Republic as part of China. In their joint declaration, however, the two countries stressed "the importance of peace and security" in the Taiwan Strait. Biden and Suga also stated their intention to participate South Korea to work together to meet the challenge posed by the North Korean nuclear program.