Kishida tells Biden bilateral alliance is key

New Prime Minister Kishida Fumio says he told US President Joe Biden on Tuesday that his government will continue to regard the bilateral alliance as the cornerstone of Japan's foreign and security policies. He added that the two leaders agreed to arrange an in-person summit soon.

Kishida, who spoke with Biden for about 20 minutes by phone, said the two leaders agreed to strengthen the bilateral alliance and to cooperate to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific.

They also reaffirmed a commitment to step up the bilateral alliance's deterrence and emergency response capabilities.

The prime minister said Biden underlined the US's commitment to apply Article five of the Japan-US security treaty to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The article obligates the United States to defend Japan.

Japan controls the Senkaku Islands. China and Taiwan claim them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory in terms of history and international law. It says there is no issue of sovereignty to be resolved.

Kishida said the two leaders also agreed to work closely on issues involving China and North Korea. Biden affirmed that the US will support Japan's efforts to secure the return of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.

The two leaders also agreed to cooperate closely on issues including the coronavirus pandemic and climate change, and to work together to realize a world free of nuclear weapons.

The meeting was Kishida's first with a foreign leader since taking office on Monday. Kishida told reporters he believes it served as an important first step in enhancing the bilateral alliance.