US senior diplomat visits Japan, China amid tension

Updated: 2012-10-12 12:30

By Tan Yingzi (China Daily)

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US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will discuss the recent territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands with Tokyo and Beijing when he visits Asia next week, it was announced on Thursday.

Burns will leave Washington on Saturday for Japan, South Korea, China, Myanmar and India. In Tokyo, he will meet with Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, and other senior officials to discuss US-Japan coordination on regional and global issues.

In Beijing, he will talk with senior officials to discuss a wide range of issues, according to the US Department of State announcement.

"I'm sure that in both China and Japan, the territorial issues will come up," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at the regular news briefing.

Last month, despite strong opposition and serious warnings from Beijing, the Japanese government claimed to have "purchased" three islands in the Diaoyu Islands chain, which belong to China.

Japan insisted no official territorial dispute exists and refused to reverse course on its so-called nationalization of the islands.

Washington has adhered to a neutral position on sovereignty and rejected a mediating role between the two countries, urging the two sides to solve the issue through peaceful negotiation.

But Washington also says that as a Pacific nation the US has a national interest in the stability of the region and that the disputed islands are covered by a US-Japan security treaty signed after World War II.

"We have no change in our policy (over the territorial dispute)," said Mike Hammer, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, at a later briefing on US foreign policy.

Earlier on Thursday, Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki said at a Washington think tank that Japan, China and South Korea should avoid raising tension over the territorial issue, but he insisted the current tension was not started by Japan.

Japan and South Korea are also in dispute over other islands.

"We think what is required is to firmly register our position, restrain from making it into an emotional issue, and peacefully cope with the issues while respecting international law," Fujisaki said.

On Wednesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Japan to return to negotiation with China, as a recent report indicated that Tokyo may "acknowledge" China's claim to the Diaoyu Islands to ease tension.

"Japan should face reality, acknowledge the dispute, correct its mistakes and come back to a solution to the issue through negotiation," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a news briefing.

Japan's Kyoto News reported on Wednesday that Japan is seeking to improve relations with China by only acknowledging Chinese claims to the islands, while maintaining its position that no official territorial dispute exists.

According to Radio Australia, Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state and national security advisor, noted that late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping had reached a consensus with his Japanese counterpart on the Diaoyu Islands issue. China and Japan signed a Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978, reflecting this spirit of this consensus.

(China Daily 10/12/2012 page5)