The top diplomats of Japan and the US on Friday vowed to give consistent support to the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

In a bilateral meeting between them in Australia, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and his US counterpart Antony Blinken reaffirmed their “grave concern” over Russia’s military build-up in the areas near the border with Ukraine.

“(Japan and the US) consistently supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” a joint statement by the Japanese Foreign Ministry said, adding that the two countries would continue their close coordination on the issue.

Tensions in Ukraine have been increasing for months after Russia amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s border, which the West says is preparation for war. Both NATO and the EU have warned of severe consequences if Moscow invades its neighbor.

Russia has repeatedly denied that it plans to attack Ukraine, insisting that its troops are there only for exercises.

Hayashi and Blinken are in Melbourne, where they will join their Australian and Indian counterparts for a meeting of the Quad — a loose security alliance among the four nations, aiming to restrict the expanding economic and military influence of China in the wider Asia-pacific region.

The Japanese statement said the two sides “concurred to continue close coordination between Japan and the US and deepen cooperation with like-minded countries such as Australia, India, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and Europe toward realizing a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’.”

ASEAN is a regional bloc of 10 countries including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Pointing to Beijing, the statement added that Hayashi and Blinken “strongly opposed unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China Seas and economic coercion.”

The two sides, it added, will “continue close coordination in addressing various issues related to China.”

Beijing has called out such efforts to counter it, calling them a “Cold War era mentality.”

The two officials, “in light of the increasingly severe regional security environment, concurred that it is essential to strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-US alliance and to continue close coordination between Japan and the US,” the statement added.

Expressing “concern” over back-to-back missile launches by North Korea, the Japanese and American top diplomats also called for “close coordination between Japan, the US, and South Korea.”

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