Sources close to Japan-U.S. relations revealed on Saturday that U.S. President Barack Obama told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he understands China has raised tensions with Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. This statement was made during their summit talks in Washington last month, the sources added.
The meeting was the first between the two leaders, and twice during the discussions, Obama referred to the disputed islands as “Senkaku,” the Japanese name for the isles that are called Diaoyu by China, the sources said. Obama also underlined his appreciation at Japan’s calm responses to China’s actions. The U.S. President proceeded to show a very good understanding toward Tokyo’s stance on the territorial row, the sources said. However, both governments decided not to release any specific statements to avoid further aggravating relations with China.
In the same meeting, Abe confirmed to Obama that Japan plans to protect the Senkakus by itself, but will not do anything to provoke China at this point in time. The Japanese government would calmly respond to any actions that might occur over the islands in the future, they said. Recently, Abe has expressed concern over Chinese vessels’ repeated intrusions into what he claims are Japanese waters near the Senkakus. These concerns were intensified when a Chinese navy frigate directed fire-control radar at a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer in the East China Sea in January, an event Beijing denies occurred.
During the summit, Obama also mentioned to territorial rows between China and Southeast Asian neighbors such as Vietnam and the Philippines over islands in the South China Sea. Obama said China’s rise is a positive development in the global economic stage, but that the nation must follow international rules, this according to the sources. The two leaders also discussed their views on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, another source close to Japan-U.S. ties said.