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Joe Biden stresses the US commitment to defend Japan in its first call with Suga

President Joe Biden, Wednesday, reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the defense of Japan in his first phone call with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in a sign of reassurance after the Trump era.

During the Donald Trump administration, America’s Asian allies often questioned whether Washington would fulfill its long-standing promises to defend them in the event of attack.

Trump had openly considered withdrawing troops not only from Japan but also from South Korea, where more than 20,000 American troops are stationed to deter any North Korean military action.

Both Biden and Suga urged a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in the call – their first since Biden took office last week.

The White House said they discussed “Washington’s firm commitment to defend Japan under Article 5 of our security treaty,” and Biden reiterated his “commitment to providing expanded deterrence to Japan.”

The statement said that the US support “includes the Senkaku Islands” – an area claimed by both Japan and China, which is called the Diaoyos Islands.

The leaders also discussed “regional security issues, including China and North Korea. The two sides jointly emphasized the necessity of a complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Suga agreed to visit the United States as soon as possible, and told reporters in Japan after the call that the trip would be planned “while watching a case of coronavirus infection.”

Jiji Press said the two leaders did not discuss the Tokyo Olympics, which has been postponed until this year and could be threatened again by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and stressed Biden’s pledge to “reach out to the world again,” a State Department spokesman said.

America’s explicit mention of the uninhabited Senkaku island chain, which has been a potential flashpoint for decades, is likely to anger Beijing.

As Biden pulls away from many of Trump’s policies, his team has pledged continuity on some diplomatic issues, including a hard-line stance on China.

The new American leader sat for decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – traveling the world to meet with foreign leaders – before becoming vice president of Barack Obama, who promoted America as “a power in the Pacific.”

During his time in office Trump raised an Asian ally by choosing trade fights with China, embracing North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and publicly announcing the possibility of withdrawing troops from the region.

Suga spoke to Biden in November after the US elections and gave a stark warning that the security situation was “getting more dangerous” in the Asia-Pacific region.

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