U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned China’s behaviour towards its neighbours in Asia, where it has been “raising tensions, not diminishing them” with its aggressive actions.
In a press conference with Japanese journalists in Tokyo, Blinken cited China’s posturing over Taiwan and its military presence in the East and South China Seas, where it is currently engaged in territorial disputes with Japan and southeast Asian nations.
Blinken is currently visiting Japan and South Korea alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to reaffirm the United States’ alliances in the region. It is the first overseas trip by top-level members of the Biden administration.
China’s disputes over maritime resources in the East and South China Seas have become a crucial issue in the increasingly volatile relationship between the United States and China, which was brought to the fore in 2020 with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to the press, Blinken said Beijing was “acting both more repressively at home and more aggressively abroad, including in the East China Sea, including with regard to the Senkakus, as well the South China Sea and also with regard to Taiwan,” reports Reuters.
China is currently contesting ownership of the Senkaku islands, also known as the Diaoyu in China.
“Japan has real interest in what happens with regard to Taiwan and Taiwan’s straits and we spent some time comparing notes on that,” said Blinken, who spoke to his Japanese counterparts during the trip.
Reuters reports that Blinken plans to discuss the matter when he has his first in-person meetings with China later this week in Alaska.
In Seoul, South Korea, Defense Secretary Austin met with South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook to pledge America’s support, including its nuclear protections, for extended deterrence against North Korea.
According to Seoul’s defence ministry, both sides reaffirmed their shared goal of complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, reports Yonhap News Agency.
“The U.S.-South Korea alliance is ever more important because of the unprecedented threats from China and North Korea,” Austin said, adding that the alliance between the two countries will provide peace in northeast Asia.
For its part, South Korea pledged to maintain its role in defending against North Korean aggression and vowed to strengthen its alliance with the U.S.
On Thursday, Austin and Blinken will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other officials.