Japan seeks U.S. guarantees in Senkaku dispute

Japanese officials are seemingly nervous regarding the dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands that has been simmering since the Japanese government purchased three of the islands from their private owner in Sep. 2012.

Following Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea Japanese officials an politicians have grown concerned whether the U.S. is really willing to provide military assistance in the event an emergency arises on the islands.

That’s why, according to The New York Times online edition, Japanese government officials have sought U.S. reassurance on the defense of the islands under the U.S.-Japan security treaty.

The New York Times quoted officials of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as saying that Japanese officials, in meetings over the last few weeks, have sought reassurances that the security treaty will apply to the disputed islands. On their part Japanese officials say that they are just asking the U.S. to clarify their commitment in an unambiguous way.

In 1994, the United States signed the Budapest Memorandum, which respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity in exchange for its scrapping of nuclear weapons. U.S. officials now say that promises made in the Budapest Memorandum are non-binding, the newspaper noted, adding that the Obama administration condemned Russia’s takeover of Crimea but has ruled out military action. This, the New York Times says, has caused deep concern among the Japanese.

The New York Times article says that some analysts and former policymakers have expressed an opinion that if the U.S. fails to come to Japan’s aid in a clash over the Senkaku islands, it could spell the end of the two nations’ postwar alliance.

A U.S. Defense Department official accompanying Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on his Japan visit said Saturday that the United States will defend Japan without hesitation if necessary based on the bilateral security treaty.

Japanese government’s last week’s approval of new elementary school textbooks that claim the islands as part of Japan’s territory is adding new fuel to the dispute, with China denouncing the act immediately.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei urged Japan to stop what he called “provocations” and teach correct historical views to its young people. “Japan should tell its next generation true facts about the Diaoyu Islands (Senkakus) that they belong to China and were illegally stolen,” Hong told a press briefing.

Not to be overdone, Chinese scholars are rushing to refresh their own textbooks for Chinese students that would clearly state that the islands are Chinese. They are also digging out documents from the Quing Dynasty that show Chinese officials visited the islands in 1808, which would be 76 years before the Japan laid claim to the territory.