SINGAPORE – Japan and the United States have reaffirmed their opposition to China’s rapid land reclamation work around the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Tokyo and Washington oppose any attempt to change the territorial status quo by force, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters after meeting Saturday with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on the sidelines of the Asia Security Summit conference in Singapore.
Nakatani and Carter also met with Australian Minister for Defense Kevin Andrews for trilateral defense talks.
In a statement afterward, the three countries expressed “serious concern” over China’s land reclamation moves and urged “all South China Sea claimants to exercise self-restraint” and “refrain from provocative actions that could escalate tensions.”
In their speeches at the summit, alternatively known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, both Nakatani and Carter expressed concern over the security situation in Asia and voiced worries about China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.
Carter chastised Beijing for being “out of step” with international rules and norms by reclaiming over 800 hectares in the South China Sea over the last 18 months. Nakatani meanwhile stressed the importance of concluding a code of conduct in the region and urged China to behave as a responsible power.
Carter repeated his concern about the situation to Nakatani, who responded by showing Tokyo’s readiness to keep the South China Sea stable.
On bilateral issues, Nakatani referred to the recent crash of a U.S. MV-22 Osprey in Hawaii, and asked Carter to provide prompt data on the safety of the tilt-rotor aircraft so the Abe government can explain it to the municipalities hosting them.
The U.S. military has deployed 24 of the aircraft at the Futenma air station in Okinawa despite strident local objections, and further plans to station CV-22s, the U.S. Air Force variant, at the Yokota base in western Tokyo.
Nakatani and Carter also exchanged views on expanding bilateral cooperation in cyberspace, based on Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines that were revised in April.