Clinton heats up Diaoyu row

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-21 1:23:01

China Sunday expressed strong dissatisfaction and opposed US comments regarding the disputes between Beijing and Tokyo over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a veiled warning to Beijing not to challenge Tokyo's control of the disputed islets.

Observers said the latest US comment was "one of the most aggressive" positions on the disputes, and was dangerous enough to embolden Japanese right-wing politicians to make more radical moves on the disputes.

Qin Gang, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, Sunday called Clinton's comments "ignorant of the facts" and "indiscriminate in terms of right and wrong," and said the US bears undeniable historical responsibility for the issue of the Diaoyu Islands, referring to the fact that despite opposition from China, the US put the islands under Japanese control after World War II.

"We urge the US side to adopt a responsible attitude in regard to the issue of the Diaoyu Islands. It should be careful with its words and acts, and maintain regional peace, stability and the general situation of China-US relations with practical actions and build credit with the Chinese people," Qin said.

Qin's comment was made in response to a speech by Clinton on Friday during a joint news conference at the State Department after  holding a meeting with the new Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

"Although the US does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, we acknowledge they are under the administration of Japan," Clinton said.

"We oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration, and we urge all parties to take steps to prevent incidents and manage disagreements through peaceful means," said the outgoing secretary of state, who also invited new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Washington next month.

Japan's Kyodo News commented that it was the first time Clinton had clearly stated Washington's opposition to altering the status quo regarding the isles.

Qu Xing, director of the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times Sunday that the US' explicit support for Japan showed a big change in Washington's public tone over the issue, and that Washington's stance on the Diaoyu row is "never neutral."

Qu's opinion was echoed by Ni Feng, an expert on East Asia security affairs from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who told the Global Times that Clinton's statement is one of the most aggressive comments over the Diaoyu Islands ever released by the US.

"It complicates the current situation between China and Japan and will very likely deepen the conflict as the statement clearly encourages Japanese right-wing politicians to make more radical moves since the statement assured them of US protection should a military clash break out," Qu said.

Since December 13, 2012, Chinese government aircraft have conducted several patrols in the airspace over the Diaoyu Islands, prompting Japan to scramble F-15 fighter jets to the area.

On January 10, China sent two J-10 fighters to the East China Sea after a Chinese Y-8 aircraft was closely followed by two Japanese F-15 fighters as it patrolled the southwestern airspace of the East China Sea oil platform.

Qu said the aggressiveness of Clinton's speech is a signal that the US believes a military conflict between the two countries is more likely to happen given the tense situation.

"It would be a political and economic disaster for the US if the world's second largest economy and the world's third largest economy engaged in a war," warned Ni.

Despite rising tensions between the two neighbors, the channel for dialogues is still open.

A handwritten letter from Abe is expected to be sent to Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central committee, this week by Natsuo Yamaguchi, the head of the New Komeito Party and Abe's close ally, to initiate a high-level talk over the territorial dispute, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

Xinhua contributed to this story

Posted in: Diplomacy, Asia-Pacific

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