United States President Barack Obama confirmed on Wednesday that the U.S.’s mutual security treaty with Japan covers the string of islands that is at the center of a long-running territorial dispute between Tokyo and Beijing. Obama made this statement ahead of an Asian tour that will bring him first and foremost to Tokyo on a two-day state visit, the first by any American president in almost two decades.
Obama reiterated the stance of the U.S. government in a written reply to questions made by Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper at the beginning of an Asian visit that will bring him to three other countries aside from Japan. “The policy of the United States is clear,” Obama said. “The Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan” and therefore shall fall under the U.S.-Japan treaty, he wrote. “We oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands,” Obama added. This reiteration seems aimed at reassuring Japan that the U.S. would always come to its defense if China attempted to take the islands by force, as Beijing also claims the territories as the Diayou Islands. Russia’s recent actions and the annexation of Crimea has raised concerns about America’s capability and political desire to protect its allies, notably Japan and the Philippines, who both have ongoing tensions with China.
Obama has already left the United States en route for Japan as the first stop of his visit to Asia, where the U.S. leader will look to promote his country’s commitment to the region. Many in the Obama administration have spoken of this apparent focus on the Asia-Pacific, a policy observers describe as “rebalancing.” After a two-day stop in Tokyo, Obama will head to South Korea, then Malaysia and then the Philippines. According to sources from Washington, the issues of maritime security and territorial disputes in the East and South China seas are “currently front and center” in Obama’s political map, and they will be discussed in the bilateral meetings scheduled for each stop of the trip. China’s growing assertiveness remains the looming backdrop to all these issues, and it has caused friction with Asian countries including Japan and the Philippines.
[via The Republic]
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