WASHINGTON (AP) — Japan assured the U.S. Friday that it will respond calmly to actions by China that have increased tensions between the two Asian powers.
As a treaty ally of Japan, the U.S. could be drawn into a conflict between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Security forces of the two nations have engaged in a cat-and-mouse but avoided confrontation over the past year as China stepped up patrols in the area.
After meeting Secretary of State John Kerry, Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said they agreed they will respond "calmly and with resolve" to China's actions, including its recent declaration of an air defense zone over an area including the uninhabited, Japanese-controlled islands, which it calls Senkaku and China calls Diaoyu.
Kerry said the U.S. was committed to upholding its treaty obligations with Japan including in the East China Sea. He reiterated the U.S. did not accept the air defense zone.
"We are deeply committed to maintaining the prosperity and the stability in the Asia-Pacific. And that won't be possible without respect for international law, including freedom of navigation and overflight," Kerry said.
Both diplomats affirmed the importance of finalizing a 12-nation free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that has run into opposition from President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats. Obama is expected to visit Japan in April, and the TPP is a key plank of his push to deepen American engagement in Asia and capitalize on its fast economic growth.