• Kyodo

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The top diplomats of Japan and the United States agreed in phone talks Thursday to strengthen their bilateral alliance and continue making efforts toward a free and open Indo-Pacific region, after Fumio Kishida became prime minister this week.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “exchanged views on a wide range of issues, such as the regional situation, including North Korea and China, as well as cooperation on climate change” during the 15-minute call, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Kishida has said the bilateral alliance remains the foundation of Japan’s foreign policy and that he will work with partners, including Washington, to address Beijing’s “attempts to change the status quo by force” in surrounding waters.

In phone talks Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden offered “strong words of commitment” regarding the defense of the Senkaku Islands, Kishida has said. The Senkakus are a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea administered by Japan and claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu.

The leaders also agreed to cooperate in dealing with North Korea, which has resumed ballistic missile tests in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Motegi is one of only two ministers Kishida retained from the previous Cabinet, the other being Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, apparently reflecting his desire to maintain continuity amid such foreign policy challenges.

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