The US and Japan are considering holding a meeting of their leaders “as soon as possible” to discuss security issues, including China’s growing military assertiveness in the region. According to Japan’s Kyodo News, the two countries aim to confirm their alliance and to coordinate their policies on matters including cybersecurity and North Korea. The likely venue for the talks would be Washington.
Observers suggest that the telephone conversation between the new Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, and US President Donald Trump on 8 October indicated the way the wind is blowing. Speaking afterwards, Trump commented: “We had a great conversation and we’re working on a lot of different things, including trade. They obviously like to do trade and so do we”.
However, a Japanese government official commented: “We haven’t made any plans yet, but we hope to exchange opinions with the US to strengthen the Japan-US alliance”. The meeting is likely to take place after the US becomes aware of the progress that Japan has made with its own efforts to tackle Covid-19, in line with Trump’s plans to reopen international borders.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin warned during a news conference, “We hope the US can work together with China, follow the trend of times, respect the aspirations of regional countries, do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability rather than the opposite”. In an online statement, China’s Ministry of Defence asserted that the PLA will take any necessary steps to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to infringements from Japan and calls to increase military defence capabilities.
The meeting would be seen as highly provocative by Beijing, which has already warned Washington against further interference in the South China Sea, where the US has already seized on China’s military build-up and increased assertiveness to launch more provocative freedom of navigation exercises. The US has also been actively courting ASEAN countries, promoting a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” policy, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting four ASEAN countries in September to talk security, economics and human rights.