Trump Defense Chief Says Japan Alliance Covers Disputed Isles

  • Japan government says Mattis confirms stance in talks with Abe
  • U.S. opposed to one-sided actions against Japan over islands

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the defense treaty between the longtime allies covers islets disputed with China, a Japanese government statement said.

The fresh guarantee will provide some reassurance for Japan after President Donald Trump withdrew from a regional trade pact and called on allies to spend more on their own defense. The statement was released late Friday after Mattis paid a courtesy call to Abe at his offices in Tokyo on his first foreign tour.

Secretary Mattis said the Senkaku Islands are under Japanese administration and are covered by Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. The U.S. opposed any one-sided actions aimed at damaging Japanese control of the islands, the statement cited Mattis as saying. The leaders also committed to ensuring the stability of the U.S. military presence in Japan however there was no mention in the statement of the cost of stationing U.S. troops there.

Ships and planes from Japan and China frequently tail one another around the uninhabited islands, known as the Senkaku in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese. Any backing down from previous U.S. pledges to defend the isles could ratchet up tensions between Asia’s two largest economies.

The U.S.-Japan Security Treaty of 1960 binds the allies to “act to meet the common danger” if territories under Japanese administration are attacked. The U.S. acknowledges Japan as administering the isles, but does not take a position on their sovereignty.

Mattis also held a meeting with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and is set to meet Defense Minister Tomomi Inada on Saturday.

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