The United States expects a "formal statement" to come out of in-depth talks on Taiwan during an upcoming meeting between President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, a senior U.S. government official said Thursday.
The summit will take place Friday in Washington as tensions grow over the situation in the Taiwan Strait. China is increasing its military pressure on the self-ruled island, which it views as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
The United States and Japan appear to have become more explicit in signaling their shared concerns over cross-strait circumstances, with the importance of "peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait" stipulated in a joint statement issued in the wake of their bilateral security talks between foreign and defense chiefs in March.
Whether a similar affirmation will be forthcoming from Biden and Suga is being closely watched as the U.S. president is stepping up efforts to enlist allies and partners to counter China's growing assertiveness in the region.
"You've seen a series of statements out of both the United States and Japan on the cross-strait circumstances on Taiwan, on our desire for the maintenance of peace and stability, on preserving the status quo," the official told a press conference over the phone.
"I expect that you will see both a formal statement and consultations on these matters," he added.
But the official also noted that the United States recognizes "the deep economic and commercial ties between Japan and China" and that it wants to respect Suga's desire "to walk a careful course."
Any reference to Taiwan in the leaders' joint statement is certain to upset China, Japan's major trading partner, and concerns linger in Tokyo over the possible economic repercussions.
The official noted that it is not the intention of the United States and Japan to "raise tensions or to provoke China," but that some of the steps that China is taking, for example, sending fighter jets and bombers toward Taiwan's air defense identification zone, is "antithetical" to the mission of maintaining peace and stability.
"And I think we want to underscore that as we go forward," he added.
Suga arrived at Joint Base Andrews near Washington on Thursday.
The last time Taiwan was mentioned in a U.S.-Japan leaders' statement was 1969, before Tokyo and Washington recognized Beijing as the sole legal government of China.
In the 1969 statement, issued by then U.S. President Richard Nixon and Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, the Japanese leader said the "maintenance of peace and security in the Taiwan area was also a most important factor for the security of Japan."