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US Reaffirms Commitment to Defend Japan, Including Disputed Islands

The US has reaffirmed its commitment to defending Japan, including contested islands in the East China Sea.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the Senkaku Islands, at the center of a long-running territorial dispute between Japan and China, fall under Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to defend Tokyo.

“This is a time of historic momentum in the US-Japan alliance,” Austin said during a meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara at the Pentagon. 

The Disputed Islands

The uninhabited islets, known as Senkaku by Tokyo and Diaoyu by Beijing, have been administered by Japan since 1895. In 2021, China sent ships to the islands as part of the enactment of a new Chinese coast guard law.

Shortly after China entered the islets’ waters, the US released a statement recommitting to its ally’s defense, saying the territory falls within the scope of Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty.

The article, part of a 1960 bilateral agreement, commits the US to defend Japan if it is attacked.

Japanese officials have since regularly protested the presence of China’s coast guard ships in the area.


Both countries have been upgrading their defenses due to China’s recent activities in the region.

“We support your government’s bold decisions to invest in advanced capabilities including counterstrike, and to increase defense spending to 2 percent of Japan’s gross domestic product by 2027,” Austin said.

“Our force posture is becoming more versatile, more mobile and more resilient. And we’re also investing in stronger ties with our friends across the region.”

The US and Japan are also establishing stronger mutual defense relationships with other countries like South Korea and Australia to promote peace in the Indo-Pacific region. Multilateral efforts like joint exercises, real-time data sharing, and secure lines of communication are encouraged within the region’s allying group.

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