Antony Blinken Calls Out China in First Foreign Trip to Japan, South Korea

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have both raised concerns about Chinese conduct during their first overseas visit to Japan and South Korea.

Blinken and Austin held a joint conference with their Japanese counterparts in Tokyo on Tuesday, affirming the U.S. alliance with Japan and South Korea and vowing to push back on Chinese authoritarian abuses where appropriate.

The Japan-South Korea visit comes ahead of a planned meeting of Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan with their Chinese counterparts in Alaska next week, where the State Department has said it expects some "difficult" exchanges.

The Biden administration has vowed to push back on Chinese human rights abuses, unfair trade practices, territorial expansionism, and probe the origins and course of the coronavirus pandemic that originated in the city of Wuhan.

The new president is putting American alliances at the center of his foreign policy strategies. Blinken told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. and Japan are "standing together in support of our shared values."

"We believe in democracy, human rights, and rule of law," Blinken said. "Because we've seen in our countries that those values actually make us stronger, and because they're under threat in many places, including in the region—whether it's in Burma or whether in different ways in China."

"But what brings us together, I think, is a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and we will work together as allies and friends to help achieve it."

Blinken added that the U.S. would "push back as necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way." America's top diplomat noted Chinese human rights abuses in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as its aggressive pressure in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

In a joint statement after the meeting, the U.S. and Japanese officials said: "China's behaviour, where inconsistent with the existing international order, presents political, economic, military and technological challenges."

They added they are "committed to opposing coercion and destabilising behaviour towards others in the region."

Blinken and Austin will next head to South Korea to continue their Asian diplomatic blitz. It began last week with a meeting of Quad ministers—the U.S., Australia, India and Japan—which also included discussion of worrying Chinese conduct across Asia.

"My next stop with Secretary Austin is in Seoul, and I hope we can find ways to strengthen our trilateral cooperation," Blinken told reporters in Tokyo.

Antony Blinken meets Japanese officials in Tokyo
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is pictured at a meeting with Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi in Tokyo, Japan on March 16, 2021. KIYOSHI OTA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images