US committed to defend Japan in territorial rift with China

John Kerry. (AFP)

John Kerry. (AFP)

After a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasised the importance of the US-Japan relationship, which both countries say remains robust in spite of a bump after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a controversial war shrine in December.

Kerry said the US and Japan were committed to closer security collaboration and stressed the long-standing US commitment to defend Japan if it is attacked. "I ... underscored that the US remains as committed as ever to upholding our treaty obligations with our Japanese allies," Kerry told reporters after talks with Kishida. "That includes with respect to the East China Sea," Kerry said.

He reiterated that Washington "neither recognises nor accepts" an air-defense zone China has declared in the region that it disputes with Japan and other Asia nations. Kerry also said the US would not change how it conducts operations there. "We are deeply committed to maintaining the prosperity and the stability in the Asia-Pacific," Kerry said. The US flew B-52 bombers through the Chinese air defense zone after it was declared last year.

US officials have warned that any declaration by Beijing of another such zone in the South China Sea could result in changes to US military deployments in the region. China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, attacked Kerry's remarks in a statement on Saturday, saying China's air-defense zone was fully in line with international law and norms. "We urge the US side to stop making irresponsible remarks so as not to harm regional stability and the China-U. relationship," Hong said.

In a separate statement Hong also said that any policy adjustment by the US in the Asia-Pacific region "must work for regional peace and stability." He was responding to remarks in a February 4 briefing in Washington by Daniel Russel, State Department assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, that the US plans to intensify efforts to rebalance its policy in the Asia-Pacific region. – Reuters

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