The United States has urged China and Japan not to escalate their row over a group of East China Sea islands claimed by both nations, and warned that any tension between them would have serious global repercussions.
"This is the cockpit of the global economy and the stakes could not be bigger and the desire is to have all leaders to keep that squarely in mind. We think in the current environment we want cooler heads to prevail, frankly," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said while answering questions at a debate held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Tuesday.
"We have enormous stakes in the maintenance of peace and stability. We believe that peaceful dialogue and the maintenance of peace and stability is of utmost importance always but particularly now in this set of circumstances," Campbell added, stressing that Washington will not take sides in the matter.
The disputed group of uninhabited islands, known as Senkaku in Japan, is under the administrative jurisdiction of Ishigaki city in the Okinawa prefecture. The islands, also known as Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutai in Taiwan, are claimed by all the three countries as the region surrounding them is oil-rich and close to key international shipping routes.
Campbell's remarks came hours after China threatened "to take reciprocal measures" against Japanese government's decision to bring the islands under its control, and sent two patrol ships to "assert the country's sovereignty" over them.
Earlier on Tuesday, Japan had sealed a deal to buy three of the disputed islands in the Senkaku archipelago from Japanese businessman Kunioki Kurihara, who claims to own them. The Japanese government said it planned to spend 2.05 billion yen (about $26 million) from reserve funds of the current year's budget to buy the three islands.
Tokyo said that the move was intended "to maintain and manage the islands in a peaceful and stable manner for ensuring safe navigation" in and around the waters surrounding the islands. Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimora insisted that transferring the islands' ownership from an individual to the state government will not pose problems to any other country or territory.
Fujimora stressed that Japan does not wish to hurt its broader relationship with China, adding that the government would carefully explain its position to China to avoid any future misunderstanding or contingency involving the Senkaku islands.
Nevertheless, Chinese Defense Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday saying that its armed forces were completely opposed to the Japanese government's move to "purchase" the Diaoyu and two of its adjacent islands.
Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said Diaoyu and its affiliated islands were China's inherent territory, noting that the country had sufficient historical and jurisprudential evidence surrounding this. He called the Japanese government's action and the so-called "island purchase" as totally illegal and invalid and warned that it was affecting bilateral ties.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: email@example.com