Obama Affirms US Backing for Japan in any Conflict with China
By Peter Symonds
April 24, 2014
US President Barack Obama has set the stage for formal talks today with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by provocatively telling the Yomuiri Shimbun that the US is fully committed to supporting Japan in any military conflict with China over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Obama landed in Tokyo yesterday on the first leg of his Asian trip, which includes South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
In written answers to the Japanese newspaper, Obama declared: “The policy of the United States is clear—the Senkaku islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.”
While US officials have made similar statements previously, Obama’s unequivocal backing for Japan in any war with China will only further fuel the tense situation surrounding the islets, and harden Abe’s refusal to even concede that a territorial dispute exists. At the same time as he has deliberately stoked up a confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, Obama is giving the green light to the right-wing Abe government in Japan to take a more belligerent stance against China.
Obama’s comments to the Yomuiri Shimbun make clear that his “pivot to Asia” is broadly targeted against China. While paying lip service to “engagement with China,” he pointedly warned that “both our nations have to resist the danger of slipping into conflict.” He also reassured Tokyo that “our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally.”