Tokyo [Japan], July 31 (ANI): Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and US Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III held a telephonic conversation on Friday and exchanged views over the current situation in the East and South China seas, where China is expanding its military presence.
Speaking to reporters, Kishi said he and the US defence chief agreed to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the bilateral alliance in light of the increasingly severe security environment, Kyodo News reported.
The talks, held at the request of the United States, came as Austin wrapped up his trip to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines from Monday.
According to Pentagon Press Secretary John F Kirby, Austin underscored American support for the U.S.-Japan Alliance and emphasized its role in maintaining a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.
Austin's trip to the Southeast Asian countries "clearly shows that the United States will deeply commit to this region's security and is very significant," Kishi said.
Secretary Austin congratulated Minister Kishi on a successful opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games and discussed his trip to Southeast Asia.
Secretary Austin and Minister Kishi "concurred on the need to continue strengthening U.S.-Japan Alliance cooperation to address an increasingly uncertain regional security environment", said the statement.
They further agreed to build on the momentum generated by their March "2+2" meeting to build closer defense cooperation in the months to come.
Indo-Pacific region is largely viewed as an area comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.
China's territorial claims in the South China Sea and its efforts to advance into the Indian Ocean are seen to have challenged the established rules-based system.
China has been increasing its maritime activities in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea over the past few months, partly in response to Beijing's concerns over the increasing US military presence in the region because of escalating Sino-US tensions.
Recently, tensions between China and Japan have escalated amid increased activity by Beijing in the disputed East China Sea.
This comes after Beijing implemented a new law that allows the country's quasi-military force to use weapons against foreign ships that China sees as illegally entering its waters. (ANI)