• Kyodo

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Japan and the United States plan to affirm that the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea fall under the scope of their security treaty in a joint statement to be issued by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Joe Biden at their summit next month, a government source said Friday.

The uninhabited islets are controlled by Japan but claimed by China, and the move could further strain relations between Washington and Beijing.

According to the Japanese government source, Suga and Biden are expected to make clear Article 5 of the 1960 security treaty, which states the United States will defend territories under Japan's administration from armed attack, applies to the group of islets.

China often sends ships near the Senkakus, which it calls the Diaoyu, despite Japan's protests, and is also embroiled in a series of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The joint statement could also mention the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, the source said.

The top diplomats and defense chiefs of Japan and the United States held talks in Tokyo this month and affirmed the Senkakus fall under the scope of the article, while voicing "serious concerns" over China's introduction of a law allowing its coast guard to fire on vessels intruding in what it considers its waters.

The meeting in Washington early next month will be Biden's first with a foreign leader since taking office in January, a fact Suga said Friday was proof of the importance the new administration places on Japan, a major U.S. ally hosting some 55,000 U.S. military personnel.

Suga said during a parliamentary session that he plans to invite Biden to this summer's Tokyo Olympics and that he hopes to work with the president to deal with North Korea, which the previous day fired ballistic missiles for the first time in a year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Biden said in a news conference Thursday the United States is consulting with its allies and will "respond accordingly" if Pyongyang decides to further escalate tensions.

The joint statement is expected to include references to bolstering extended deterrence and advancing efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region, the source said, adding it may also touch on cooperation with Australia and India, fellow members of the so-called Quad.

Suga and Biden are also set to discuss ways to tackle climate change and improve economic resilience, including by securing supply chains for rare earths, of which China is a major exporter, and medical goods that have become key amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under Biden, the United States has ramped up criticism of China for human rights abuses against the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region and over its actions in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as well as cyberattacks and what it has called "economic coercion" of its allies.

"Each of these actions threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a meeting last week with Beijing's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi.

Yang, meanwhile, accused the United States of having a "Cold War mentality" and meddling in China's internal affairs.

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