Japan, US top diplomats agree to boost alliance

Japan's new Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have agreed to further strengthen the bilateral alliance to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.

During their telephone talks on Saturday morning, Japan time, Hayashi expressed his hope to build a good relationship with Blinken, just as his predecessor Motegi Toshimitsu did.

The US secretary offered his congratulations to Hayashi on becoming foreign minister. Hayashi assumed the post earlier this week, when Prime Minister Kishida Fumio launched his second Cabinet.

Hayashi and Blinken reaffirmed that they will work closely in responding to global issues, such as the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

Both sides strongly opposed China's unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China seas. They also agreed on the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

The diplomats shared the view that their nations will coordinate closely toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

Hayashi asked for continued understanding and cooperation on the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea decades ago. Blinken offered his support.

The officials agreed to arrange a visit to the US by Prime Minister Kishida as early as possible.

Blinken reaffirmed Washington's unwavering commitment to the defense of Japan, including the application of Article Five of the Japan-US Security Treaty to the Senkaku Islands.

Japan controls the 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 over them.

After the talks, Hayashi told reporters that the conversation was a very important step toward creating a relationship of trust. The minister said he hopes he and the secretary will enjoy good harmony as former music band members.