WASHINGTON - Secretary of State John Kerry vowed Friday that the United States would defend Japan against attack including over islands claimed by China as tensions boil between the Asian powers.
Kerry, who announced that he would visit China on a trip starting next week, met in Washington with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and reaffirmed the 1960 treaty that commits the United States to protect its ally.
"I... underscored that the United States remains as committed as ever to upholding our treaty obligations with our Japanese allies. That includes with respect to the South China Sea," he said, before correcting himself to say the East China Sea.
Fears of conflict rose in November when China imposed an Air Defense Identification Zone over much of the East China Sea, requiring planes to report to Beijing when crossing islands administered by Tokyo known in Japanese as the Senkaku and in Chinese as Diaoyu.
"The United States neither recognizes nor accepts China's declared East China Sea ADIZ and the United States has no intention of changing how we conduct operations in the region," Kerry said.
The United States and its allies have been increasingly concerned that China will take similar action in the South China Sea, where the Philippines in particular has voiced worries about Beijing's maritime claims.
Kishida, for his part, extended an invitation for President Barack Obama to make a state visit to Japan. Diplomats say that Obama is likely to visit Japan on an April tour of Asia, although Kerry is not expected to stop in Tokyo on his upcoming trip.
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