News / Asia

China Rejects Obama’s Stance on Japan Island Dispute

FILE - A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (t), Minamikojima (b) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 2012.
FILE - A group of disputed islands, Uotsuri island (t), Minamikojima (b) and Kitakojima, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China is seen in the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Kyodo September 2012.
William Ide
China is voicing strong opposition to President Obama's statement that disputed islands in the East China Sea fall under a mutual security treaty between Washington and Tokyo. Ahead of his arrival in Japan for security and economic talks, the president told a Japanese newspaper that Washington would come to Tokyo's defense if there is ever a conflict over the islands in the East China Sea, which China also claims as its own.
 
It was expected that territorial disputes between China and its neighbors would come up during U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to Asia, particularly during his first stop in Japan. But the blunt words began even before Obama's plane touched down in Tokyo.
 
A major Japanese newspaper Wednesday published its transcript of an interview with the president where he gave what some analysts say is the clearest statement to date on the U.S. position regarding the disputed islands.
 
The islands, known as the Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, have long been administered by Japan and claimed by China.
 
Obama told the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper that islands fall under the U.S.- Japan Mutual Cooperation and Security Treaty and Washington opposes any “unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of the islands.”
 
Commenting on the interview Wednesday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang took particular aim at the U.S.- Japan security treaty, calling it a bilateral agreement formed during the Cold War.
 
Qin said China is “firmly opposed to putting the islands under the U.S. Japan treaty.” Adding that the “U.S. should respect the facts and take a responsible attitude, be discreet in word and deed and play a constructive role in regional peace.”
 
The United States transferred administration of the islands to Japan in 1972, and Tokyo and Beijing have been locked in a dispute over them for years.  In 2012, when the Japanese government purchased the previously privately owned and uninhabited islands, tensions began to rise even more.
 
The U.S. has repeatedly said that it does not take sides in such regional territorial disputes.  In his interview, Obama has called for diplomacy and engagement, instead of intimidation and coercion to resolve maritime disputes. The fight over the islands has become increasingly bitter ever since Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepped into office and Beijing frequently puts all of the blame on Tokyo.
 
China argues that the islands are part of its historic territory. Late last year, it abruptly and unilaterally announced the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone that includes the islands.
 
Initial reaction to Obama's remarks was mixed.
 
Tomohiko Taniguchi, a professor at Keio University and special advisor to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Obama's statement was historically significant.  "It is the most reassuring statement that the nation has ever heard from the top leader of the biggest economy, the biggest military power in the world, so nothing could be more reassuring," he said.
 
In China, few saw the declaration as a shift in the overall U.S. position.

Wang Dong, a political scientist at Peking University says other U.S. officials have previously said the islands fall under this defense treaty, so the president’s remarks are not a shift in policy.
 
He said the remarks are unlikely to have any significant impact on the dispute and seemed more intended at reassuring U.S. allies in the region.  “I don't see this as something that is sort of a big surprise or a 180 degree shift in the U.S. position,” said Wang.
 
Chinese state media, however, warned that the remark runs the risk of violating Washington's often-stated position that it does not take sides in the dispute. One article by the China News Service said the U.S. should do more to promote peace and stability in the region, instead of sending contradictory and false signals.

VOA Correspondent Steve Herman also contributed to this report.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid