Japan, Feb 4: China has accused the US of putting the stability of the Asia-Pacific at risk after Donald Trump’s defence secretary said Washington would come to Japan’s defence in the event of a conflict with Beijing over the disputed Senkaku islands.
James Mattis, on a two-day visit to Japan, said the islands, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China, fell within the scope of the Japan-US security treaty, under which Washington is obliged to defend all areas under Japanese administrative control. Mattis also made clear that the US opposed any unilateral action that risked undermining Japan’s control of the Senkakus, a group of uninhabited islets that are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and potentially large natural gas deposits.
“I want to make certain that Article 5 of our mutual defence treaty is understood to be as real to us today as it was a year ago, five years ago – and as it will be a year, and 10 years, from now,” Mattis, a retired marine general who has served in South Korea and Japan, told Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, on Friday evening.
On Saturday, China’s foreign ministry called on the US to stop issuing “wrong remarks” about the Senkakus, which are located in the East China Sea and known as the Diaoyu in China. The ministry said in a statement that the US should avoid complicating the issue and “bringing instability to the regional situation”.
Mattis’s vow that the US would defend the Senkakus came at the end of a four-day visit to South Korea and Japan, during which he has sought to reassure the US allies of the Trump administration’s commitment to their security.
“I want there to be no misunderstanding during the transition in Washington that we stand firmly, 100% shoulder-to-shoulder with you and the Japanese people,” he said.
On Saturday, he told Japan’s defence minister, Tomomi Inada, that their countries’ alliance was the “cornerstone” of regional stability.