US-Japan alliance to lead Asia-Pacific

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama hold a joint press conference after their summit on Thursday at the State Guest House in Minato Ward, Tokyo.

TOKYO - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Barack Obama held a bilateral summit of about 100 minutes in Tokyo on Thursday, reaffirming that the Japan-US alliance will lead the Asia-Pacific region in the security and economic spheres.

Obama, who is in Japan as a state guest on the first stop of his four-nation Asian tour, clearly stated at a joint press conference after the summit that the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture were within the scope of Article 5 of the Japan-US Security Treaty that obliges the United States to defend Japan.

Concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral trade and economic negotiations, the two leaders agreed to continue discussions between Akira Amari, Japan's TPP minister, and US Trade Representative Michael Froman.

At the beginning of the summit at the State Guest House in Moto-Akasaka in Minato Ward, Tokyo, Abe said that Obama's visit to Asia this time is "a testament to the US revised policy which attaches importance to this [Asia-Pacific] region." He went on, "And together with the United States, Japan would like to realise our leading role of the alliance in ensuring a peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific."

Obama replied: "Because of the strong cooperation between our countries I am confident that we will continue to make progress in the future...We have to work make sure that we are creating a strong set of rules that govern the international order."

The leaders confirmed during the summit a policy to strengthen the alliance through security cooperation.

At the press conference, Obama stressed that "Article 5 [of the Japan-US Security Treaty] covers all territories under Japan's administration, including the Senkaku Islands."

Obama's third visit to Japan as US president is his first since November 2010. He is the first US president to be a state guest in 18 years.

Regarding China, which has steadily been pursuing military expansion, Abe and Obama agreed in the summit that the two nations will cooperate closely with each other to develop a "free and open Asia-Pacific region" based on the rule of law, and will "try to engage China in this region."

With the Japan-China tensions over the Senkaku Islands, over which China claims sovereignty and unilaterally declared an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea, Abe and Obama agreed that they clearly oppose any attempt to change the status quo through coercion or intimidation.

The leaders also reaffirmed their support for each member state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in improving ocean surveillance capabilities, through such means as providing patrol vessels to the Philippines and Vietnam, which have been involved in confrontations with China over territorial rights in the South China Sea.

To denuclearize North Korea, the two leaders agreed that trilateral cooperation among Japan, South Korea and the United States is crucial. Abe also requested from Obama the "continued understanding and cooperation" of the United States to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents. The US president "expressed his support," Abe said.

When Abe explained his intention to review the government's interpretation of the Constitution to enable the country to exercise its right to collective self-defence, Obama supported the idea.