Obama calls for end to China-Japan island dispute

2014-04-24 08:44
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Akasaka Palace State Guest House in Tokyo. (File, AP)

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Akasaka Palace State Guest House in Tokyo. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tokyo - President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he wants to see a dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea resolved peacefully, while affirming that America's mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands.

"Historically they have been administered by Japan and we do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally," Obama said at a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"What is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan."

China and Japan have conflicting claims to the remote islands, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. The dispute has badly strained relations between the two Asian powers.

A US-Japan defence treaty requires Washington to come to Japan's defence if it is attacked. Obama said his defence of that treaty is not a new position.

"The treaty between the US and Japan preceded my birth, so obviously this isn't the red line that I'm drawing," the president said.

‘Keep the rhetoric low’

A Chinese government spokesperson has said China has "indisputable sovereignty" over the islands and that "the so-called Japan-US alliance" should not harm China's territorial rights.

Obama said he wants the maritime issue to be worked out "through dialogue". He urged the two sides to "keep the rhetoric low".

"It would be a profound mistake to continue to see escalation around this issue instead of dialogue," Obama said he told Abe during a private meeting.

While China is not on Obama's eight-day itinerary in Asia, leaders in Beijing are closely watching the president's tour. Obama's advisers insist that the trip - and the White House's broader Asia policy - is not designed to counter China's growing power, and they say the president is not asking Asian nations to choose between allegiance to Washington or Beijing.

"We want to continue to encourage the peaceful rise of China," Obama said.

Abe said he and Obama agreed to co-operate on engagement with China, along with other topics, including a stalled trans-Pacific trade agreement and the impact of the US military presence in Okinawa.

"The Japan-US alliance is more robust than ever before," Abe said.

On another Asian concern, Obama said he's not optimistic North Korea will change its behaviour in the near future. But he said he's confident that by working with Japan, South Korea and others, the US can apply more pressure so that "at some juncture they end up taking a different course".

"If in fact you are serious about North Korea being a normal nation then you've got to start changing your behaviour," Obama said.

Obama added that China's participation in pushing North Korea is critical.

Pivot to Asia

Obama's four-country visit to Asia is aimed at reaffirming his commitment to Asia even as the crisis in Ukraine demands US attention and resources elsewhere.

The ominous standoff between Ukraine and Russia threatens to overshadow the trip as the president weighs whether to levy new economic sanctions on Moscow.

Obama began his day with a call on Emperor Akihito at the Imperial Palace, a lush, park-like complex surrounded by modern skyscrapers where he was greeted by a military honour guard and children holding US and Japanese flags.

After taking in the scene, the president, emperor and empress walked along a maze of red carpet into the palace for a private meeting, with US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and other aides trailing behind.

The president told the emperor that the last time they met, he did not have any gray hairs. "You have a very hard job," the emperor replied.

Obama opened the first state visit by an American president to Japan in nearly 20 years on Wednesday night, when he and Abe had dinner at Tokyo's famed sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. Abe told reporters Obama praised the meal as "the best sushi he had had in his life".

Later on Thursday, Obama planned to return to the Imperial Palace for a state dinner. He also planned to visit the Meiji Shrine, which honours the emperor whose reign saw Japan emerge from over two centuries of isolation to become a world power.

Obama's stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines serve as something of a do-over after he cancelled a visit to Asia last fall because of the US government shutdown.

The cancellation provided fresh fodder for those in the region who worry that the White House's much-hyped pivot to Asia is continually taking a backseat to other foreign and domestic priorities.

"I think the president will want to make clear that this commitment will be unaffected by developments in Ukraine and other global events," said Jeffrey Bader, Obama's former Asia director. "Countries want to hear that the US presence is in fact steady and strong as China rises."
Read more on:    shinzo abe  |  barack obama  |  japan  |  us  |  china

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.