U.S. Vice President urges calm on Senkakus
Joe Biden says he is concerned about the tensions between Japan and China that have intensified since China announced its air defense zone across the East China Sea, encompassing the Senkaku Islands in southwestern Okinawa Prefecture, and he’s told China and Japan they need to cool the rhetoric.
The U.S. Vice President’s comments in Tokyo came even as the United States says it will continue to stand by treaty obligations with Japan, even if it means having to step in to defend the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, a group of five uninhabited and desolate island that are believed to be sitting over billions of dollars worth of minerals and oil. Washington says it is “deeply concerned” by China’s move, and doesn’t want to be pulled into a military clash, but acknowledges it will, if necessary.
Biden’s first stop was Japan, before heading to China as part of his week-long Asia trip intended to calm everyone down over the controversial air defense zone, while at the same time trying to strengthen support for Japan.
“We remain deeply concerned by the announcement of a new Air Defense Identification Zone,” Biden told the Asahi newspaper. “This latest incident underscores the need for agreement between China and Japan to establish crisis management and confidence building measures to lower tensions.”
Japan has again spoken out, confirming it and the U.S. are standing firm in rejecting China’s establishment of the zone. “We and the United States have the same stance of not recognizing this ADIZ,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. “We firmly confirm this.” The comments came even as Barack Obama was telling American-owned Delta, United and American Airlines to go ahead and follow China’s ban. Washington has smarted over that announcement, further clarifying the government position that although commercial airlines were told to go along, the military will not. The U.S. has already sent B-52 bombers into the Chinese ID zone without notice, and Japan has done the same with fighter aircraft.
China’s Global Times says Biden shouldn’t be getting up close with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, or take any other steps to irritate China. Global Times is printed by the People’s Daily, the official publication of the Communist Party. “The only choice he has if he wants a successful trip (to China) is not to go too far in his words over there,” the Global Times wrote. “If he openly supports Tokyo and wants to ‘send an expedition to punish’ Beijing, the Chinese people won’t accept it.”
Both Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, saying they were uncomfortable flying through the zone without clearance, have been doing so. They point to the fact that American carriers are following the Notice to Airmen despite other U.S. government talks. White House spokesman Jay Carney has explained President Obama’s words, explaining they were for safety reasons.
Carney says, though: “However – and let me be clear – this in no way indicates U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirement in the newly declared ADIZ, and has absolutely no bearing on the firm and consistent U.S. government position that we do not accept the legitimacy of China’s requirements.”.
Washington takes no position on the sovereignty of the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. However, it recognizes Tokyo’s administrative control and says the U.S.-Japan security pact applies to them.