The brand new US Secretary of Protection reaffirms US dedication to the protection of the Senkaku Islands

© Reuters. General Austin confirmation hearing for Secretary of Defense in Washington

TOKYO (Reuters) – New Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reiterated America's commitment to defending the disputed islands of the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan during his first phone call with his Japanese counterpart on Sunday, Jiji news agency reported.

Austin and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi confirmed that Article 5 of the US-Japan Security Treaty, which sets out US defense obligations to Japan, covers the Senkaku Islands, Jiji said. The islands are known as Diaoyu in China.

Defense ministers also reiterated their opposition to any unilateral act that would undermine Japan's right to rule the islands, Jiji said.

Japan is becoming increasingly concerned about Chinese activities in the East China Sea, including incursions into waters around the disputed islands.

The talks were the first ministerial talks between Tokyo and Washington since US President Joe Biden took office on Wednesday. Retired Army General Austin made history Friday when he became America's first black Secretary of Defense.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense was not immediately available for comment.

The US Indo-Pacific Command announced on Sunday that a US Navy strike group entered the South China Sea on Saturday. On the same day, Taiwan reported a major incursion by Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air defense zone near the Pratas Islands.

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