Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi confirmed Sunday in his first talks with new U.S. defense chief Lloyd Austin that the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea fall under the scope of the two allies’ security treaty.

Kishi spoke by phone with Austin, who became the first Black U.S. defense chief after being confirmed to his post Friday, with the pair also pledging to further bolster the U.S.-Japan alliance and maintain and strengthen a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” according to the Defense Ministry.

The teleconference was the first ministerial-level talks between Japan and the United States since President Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday.