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International relations

Blinken and Japan's Hayashi agree on early U.S. visit by Kishida

Tokyo's new foreign minister reaffirms importance of free and open Indo-Pacific

Japan's new Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, 60, became foreign minister when Prime Minister Kishida relaunched his Cabinet on Nov. 10.   © Kyodo

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's new Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken agreed Saturday to realize an early visit to the United States by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for his first summit.

In Hayashi's first talks with a foreign counterpart since assuming the post Wednesday, the two top diplomats also agreed to bolster bilateral alliance and make efforts toward a free and open Indo-Pacific region amid China's assertiveness, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

The two affirmed the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait during the phone talks, while seeking to hold a so-called two-plus-two meeting involving the two allies' defense and foreign ministers as early as possible.

"I think it was a very important first step in building a relationship of trust with Secretary Blinken," Hayashi told reporters after the roughly 30-minute conversation.

The Japanese government has said Kishida, who became prime minister in October, could possibly visit the United States before the end of the year for talks with President Joe Biden. Tokyo is eyeing a November date for the trip, Japanese government sources said earlier.

Last week, Kishida had a brief conversation with Biden on the sidelines of the U.N. climate in Glasgow, Scotland, during which the two agreed to enhance bilateral alliance.

At the beginning of the telephone talks, Hayashi said he "wants to build a good relationship with Secretary Blinken and further strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance," according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

The U.S. State Department said Blinken offered congratulations to Hayashi on his new post, and "emphasized the United States' commitment to working closely with Japan and other allies and partners to advance our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific."

The two shared concerns regarding China's unilateral attempts to alter the status quo in the region with the use of force, according to the Japanese ministry.

Hayashi said Blinken expressed commitment "to the defense of Japan, including the application of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. security treaty to the Senkaku Islands" in the East China Sea.

Article 5 states Washington will defend territories under Tokyo's administration from armed attack. China claims the Japan-administered uninhabited islets and calls them Diaoyu, one of several areas of concern among the United States and its allies over Beijing's growing assertiveness in regional waters.

Hayashi, a 60-year-old House of Representatives lawmaker often seen as holding a "pro-China" stance, became foreign minister when Kishida relaunched his Cabinet this week.

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