US inflames island dispute
The Obama administration has entered the dispute between Japan and China over sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, further inflaming tensions.
US inflames island dispute between Japan and China
By Peter Symonds
The Obama administration has entered the dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, further inflaming tensions between the two countries and raising the danger of military conflict.
Speaking last Friday after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that the US was neutral on the issue of sovereignty over the islands. But she added: “We oppose any unilateral action [by China] that would seek to undermine Japanese administration.”
Washington’s professions of neutrality have always been a sham. Senior American officials, including Clinton, have declared that the US would support Japan militarily in any conflict with China over the islands. Clinton’s comments were a thinly-disguised warning that the US could intervene if Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and aircraft continued to challenge Japanese control over the seas and airspace surrounding the rocky outcrops.
China bitterly criticised Clinton’s comments. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei branded her remarks as “ignorant of facts and indiscriminate of rights and wrongs.” He accused the US of having an “undeniable historical responsibility” for the dispute. After Japan’s surrender in 1945, the US continued to occupy Okinawa and the surrounding islands, including the Senkaku/Diaoyu group, until 1972, when it handed control to Tokyo.
The current standoff between China and Japan flared last September when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led government “nationalised” the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets by buying them from their private Japanese owner. China condemned the move and gave the green light for widespread anti-Japanese protests that attacked Japanese businesses and individuals in China. Both sides have whipped up nationalist sentiment to divert mounting economic and social tensions at home.
The right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won last month’s lower house election in Japan after a campaign dominated by nationalism and militarism. Almost immediately, newly-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced increased military spending and a strengthening of “island defence.” Last Sunday, Abe declared: “I am resolved to lead the way and protect to the very end our people’s lives and assets, and our territorial land, water and skies.”