U.S. President Barack Obama opened his four-country Asia tour with a first stop in Tokyo. In his first visit to Japan in three years, Obama focused heavily on reassuring Japan of the United States’ commitment to the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. The entire trip to Asia will largely focus on reassuring key U.S. allies of the America’s ongoing commitment to Asia as part of its larger strategic “rebalance” to the region.
In an interview ahead of his trip with Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, Obama said that the United States regards the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands as falling under the purview of the U.S.-Japan security treaty and that the United States would oppose any attempt to undermine Japan’s control of the islands. “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 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands,” Obama stated in the Yomiuri Shimbun.
The statement naturally drew protest from the Chinese foreign ministry. ”The so-called US-Japan alliance is a bilateral arrangement from the Cold War and ought not to harm China’s territorial sovereignty and reasonable rights,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang noted. The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are disputed by China and Japan, both of whom regard the entirety of the islands and their surrounding waters as their sovereign territory. In 2012, Japan purchased some of the islands from a private owner, effectively nationalizing them. Since then, the dispute has been a major feature of relations between China and Japan.