U.S. president Barack Obama wound up a visit to Japan on Friday and began a visit to South Korea.
The Japanese and US governments issued a joint statement on Friday, after an unusual delay, reports Radio Japan. The statement says the United States and Japan are committed to taking the bold steps necessary to complete a high-standard, ambitious and comprehensive TPP agreement, and says the US and Japan underscore the importance of maintaining maritime order based on international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight. It was apparently alluding to China’s increased maritime activities.
The statement also says the US provides all necessary capabilities to meet its commitments under the US-Japan security treaty. It says these commitments cover all territories under the administration of Japan, including the Senkaku Islands, adds Radio Japan.
American president Obama and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe held a press conference on Thursday, and the White House published a transcript of the press conference. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that is currently meant to include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam, was one of the big topics, another was military cooperation between Japan and the U.S..
Addressing the Japanese prime minister directly, Obama explicitly stated that under your leadership, Japan is also looking to make even greater contributions to peace and security around the world, which the United States very much welcomes.
Obama also explicitly stated that the American military alliance with Japan covered the Senkaku Islands (aka Diaoyutai Islands), replying to a question from a news person not mentioned by name or organization.
A U.S. reporter follows up on that.
Q (CNN): Thank you, Mr. President. Arigato, Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. President, in regards to the Senkaku Islands, I just want to make sure that this is absolutely clear. Are you saying that the U.S. would consider using military force were China to have some sort of military incursion in those islands to protect those islands? And how does that not draw another red line that you would have to enforce — of putting U.S. credibility, your credibility on the line once again, as it was in the case with Syria and Russia? And on another key security issue, you mentioned North Korea in your meeting with the Prime Minister. Are you issuing a warning to North Korea that there should not be another nuclear test?
And to Prime Minister Abe, do you have confidence in President Obama’s assurances about your security when the U.S. and the West were unable to stop Russia’s advances in Ukraine? Thank you.
After this question, Obama’s answers began to take time. It started with Well, Jim, let me unpack that question because there’s a whole bunch of assumptions in there, some of which I don’t agree with. There was no “red line”, the president added, but only the standard interpretation over multiple administrations of the terms of the alliance, which is that territories under the administration of Japan are covered under the treaty. Diplomacy, not escalation, would be encouraged, according to Obama, who pointed to the removal of chemical weapons from Syria as an example for successful diplomacy.
On the day of Abe’s and Obama’s press conference in Tokyo, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang (秦刚) held one in Beijing, too.
Q: US President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met the press together after their meeting. Obama said that the Diaoyu Islands are under Japan’s administration and fall within the scope of the US-Japan security treaty. What is China’s comment?
A: China’s position on the issue of the Diaoyu Islands is clear, firm and consistent. China firmly opposes the inclusion of the Diaoyu Islands into the US-Japan security treaty. I have already clarified this solemn position yesterday.
I want to add that the so-called US-Japan security treaty is the product of the Cold War era. It should not be cited to target a third party, let alone to undermine China’s territorial sovereignty. No matter what others may say or do, the solid fact that the Diaoyu Islands are integral parts of China’s territory cannot be changed, nor will our government’s and people’s determination and resolve to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests be shaken.
The Obama administration had apparently prepared the ground with an interview. He had told Yomiuri Shimbun that our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally, and that the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.
On Wednesday, Qin Gang – as he pointed out on Thursday – had commented on Obama’s message, too.
Q: Today’s Yomiuri Shimbun published their interview with US President Barack Obama. Obama said in the interview that the Diaoyu Islands are under Japan’s administration and fall within the scope of US-Japan security treaty, adding that the US supports Japan in playing a bigger role in the field of security in the Asia Pacific. What is China’s comment?
A: China’s position on the issue of the Diaoyu Islands is clear and consistent. The Diaoyu Islands are an integral part of China over which China has indisputable sovereignty. The so-called control of the islands by the Japanese side is illegal and invalid. Their provocative actions are undeniable and unjustifiable. Our determination and resolve to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests is unshakable.
It should be noted that the US-Japan alliance, as a bilateral arrangement forged during the Cold War era, should never infringe upon China’s territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests. China firmly opposes the inclusion of the Diaoyu Islands into the US-Japan security treaty. The US should respect facts, act responsibly, stick to its commitment of taking no sides in relevant territorial disputes, think twice before saying or doing anything and truly play a constructive role in ensuring regional peace and stability.
For historical reasons, countries in the region as well as the international community are mindful about Japan’s policies in military and security areas. Considering the recent incidents, by incidents I mean the provocative words and actions of the Japanese authority on issues of history, territorial sovereignty and others, Japan’s moves in the military and security areas are also closely watched by us. We hope that relevant parties can show their respect for facts, tell right from wrong, and make positive efforts in safeguarding regional peace, security and stability. As for the Japanese side, we hope they can follow the trend of the times, featuring win-win cooperation, and show us with their concrete actions that they are still on the path of peaceful development.
Meantime, Obama has arrived in South Korea, and is scheduled to visit Malaysia and the Philippines after that.
Huanqiu Shibao, on Tuesday, published an account of an interview with Jin Canrong (金灿荣), a foreign-relations observer, who states a belief that Washington was aware of Japanese ambitions to lead America, rather than to be led by America, and that Washington was confident that its own leadership would prevail in U.S.-Japanese cooperation. However, nobody should make much of the fact that Obama wouldn’t stay in the State Guest House during his stay in Japan, or that he wasn’t accompanied by his wife. China’s feelings were hardly Obama’s concern when making these decisions. A researcher at the Japan Institute of the China Institutes Of Contemporary International Relations, Liu Junhong (刘军红), suggests that several successive Japanese governments had tried to bypass America in order to dominate the East Asian community, but that with America joining the TPP, this Japanese concept had disintegrated. Now, Japan hoped to achieve the goal of domination by “borrowing strength” from America.
“美国有信心主导美日关系而不是被日本主导，肯定不会被日本当枪使”，中国国际问题专家 金灿荣21日对《环球时报》说，对于日本期望美国为其站台的盘算，美国心里是清楚的，但如果认为奥巴马不住国宾馆、米歇尔不随行是顾虑中方感情，那显然是 想多了。金灿荣说，日本近期在扩大集体自卫权方面动作频繁，中方不要指望美国会“管教”日本，相反日本军事动作背后有美国的意思，因为美国人自信完全可以 控制住日本，希望日本在亚洲多发挥军事作用。中国现代国际关系研究院日本研究所研究员刘军红说，最近几届日本政府期待主导“东亚共同体”，也就是甩开美国 单干，但这个构想被美国的TPP瓦解了。现在日本仍未放弃主导亚洲，但希望通过借力美国来实现。
Huanqiu also quotes Russia Today‘s “Voice of Russia” as commenting on Monday that while countries visited by Obama wanted American security assurances, America might not be able to give such guarantees. Those countries needed to understand that America had always kept its own interests first on its mind, and that these interests wouldn’t allow America to openly antagonize China.
Meantime, the “Voice of Russia” is interviewing academics, too. On Friday, the former radio station’s website published remarks by Dmitry Babich, a political analyst of their own. America was lucky enough to have good economic relations with both China and Japan, Babich says, but instead of being a mediator between them Obama engaged himself 100% on the side of Japan, said that the US has to protect Japan according to the defense treaties. And in this way he alienated China and pushed it into the arms of Russia right on the eve of President Putin’s visit.
Or, maybe, Beijing allows Moscow to jump into China’s arms.
But then, Beijing has interests of its own, too. And not confronting America openly – i. e. to maintain big-power relations with Washington – may be a priority for Beijing, at least for the time being.