Lloyd Austin bumps elbows with Nobuo Kishi as Antony Blinken and Toshimitsu Motegi watch (© Kazuhiro Nogi/AP Images)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, and Defense Secretary Austin, left, met with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, front, March 16 in Tokyo. (© Kazuhiro Nogi/AP Images)

The United States is strengthening alliances with Japan and the Republic of Korea to better tackle global challenges like COVID-19 and climate change and to encourage a free and open Indo-Pacific.

In his first overseas travel as secretary of state March 15–18, Antony Blinken met with senior officials in Tokyo and Seoul, the Republic of Korea, affirming and reinvigorating long-standing democratic alliances that are a foundation of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin joined Blinken on the trip and met with his counterparts, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi of Japan and Defense Minister Suh Wook of the Republic of Korea.

Just before he and Austin met with Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga March 16, Blinken called the United States’ partnership with Japan “a cornerstone of peace, security, and prosperity for our countries, for the region, and the world for more than 60 years.”

During the 2+2 Dialogue, a meeting among Blinken, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Austin and Kishi, the U.S. and Japanese officials committed to furthering their countries’ collaboration with India and Australia, a partnership known as the Quad. They pledged to strive for the denuclearization of North Korea and discussed the People’s Republic of China’s challenges to international order, including in the South and East China seas.

“China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” Blinken told reporters after the meeting.

In contrast, Blinken said, the United States and Japan stand for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. He noted that both countries support peaceful protesters’ calls for the restoration of democratically elected government in Burma after a military coup.

“We’re united in the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, where countries follow the rules, cooperate whenever they can, and resolve their differences peacefully,” Blinken said.

In Tokyo, Blinken also met with business leaders, including women entrepreneurs, and journalists to highlight the importance of investing in women entrepreneurs for economic growth, and the role of a free press in promoting good governance and defending democracy.

Before a March 17 meeting with Foreign Minister Chung Eui­-yong of the Republic of Korea, Blinken said, “We want to achieve our shared vision of a free and open Indo­-Pacific, anchored by respect for human rights, for democracy, for the rule of law.”

During the meeting in Seoul, Blinken and Chung bolstered the U.S.­–Republic of Korea partnership by:

  • Advancing a draft Special Measures Agreement to ensure a mutually beneficial alliance and deter aggression.
  • Affirming the importance of increasing economic ties by strengthening supply chains, promoting new technologies and fostering economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Committing to enhanced cooperation on climate climate change, including by achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

In Seoul, Blinken also met virtually with Korean youth leaders and emerging journalists to discuss the importance of the United States alliance with the Republic of Korea in promoting peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and across the globe.