U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said islands at the heart of a dispute between Japan and China fall under an American defense pact with Japan, while urging the sides to resolve the standoff via diplomacy.
“We want to focus more on issues associated with the maintenance of peace and stability and less on the particular details of this very complex and challenging matter,” Campbell told a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs subcommittee yesterday. He said the islands fall under a treaty which obligates the U.S. to defend Japan if it’s attacked.
The U.S. doesn’t take a position on the sovereignty of the islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, Campbell said. His comments echoed those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said in 2010 that the islands fall under “mutual treaty obligations” with the Japan government.
Japan’s purchase last week of the islands triggered protests and attacks on Japanese businesses in China, straining ties between Asia’s two biggest economies. In a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this week, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie said his government reserves the right to take further action in the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries since 2005.
“We have stated very clearly that we want this issue to be resolved peacefully through dialogue between Japan and China,” Campbell said. The U.S. is concerned “by recent demonstrations, and frankly the potential for the partnership between Japan and China to fray substantially in this environment,” he said.