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.
    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

    US Watching as North Korea Holds Biggest Political Meeting in 36 Years

    Workers' Party Congress set for Friday; Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora