US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States opposes any unilateral actions on the disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Speaking at a joint conference with the visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Clinton called on Japan and China to resolve their territorial dispute peacefully. But she also indirectly warned China against taking any unilateral action to undermine Japan's control of the islands.
"As I've said many times before, although the United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, we acknowledge they are under the administration of Japan, and we oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration and we urge all parties to take steps to prevent incidents and manage disagreements through peaceful means."
Kishida welcomed Clinton's support, but said his country wants good relations with China.
"While Japan will not concede and will uphold our fundamental positions that the Senkaku islands are an inherent territory of Japan, we intend to respond calmly so as not to provoke China".
Tensions over the tiny islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have risen in recent months. Beijing and Tokyo now conduct rival aerial surveillance over the disputed waters.
Kishida's visit to Washington is the first by a top Japanese official since Japan's conservatives were returned to power in elections last month. Clinton announced that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been invited to visit Washington in February.