• Wed
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 12:08pm

Diaoyu Islands

The Diaoyu Islands are a group of uninhabited islands located roughly due east of mainland China, northeast of Taiwan, west of Okinawa Island, and north of the southwestern end of the Ryukyu Islands. They are currently controlled by Japan, which calls them Senkaku Islands. Both China and Taiwan claim sovereignty over the islands. 


Obama reassures Japan over Diaoyu Islands, but warns against provoking China

President reassures Tokyo that US would come to its aid, but warns against provoking China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 April, 2014, 11:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 4:39pm

US President Barack Obama yesterday treaded a diplomatic fine line as he reassured Japan that the US would come to its defence over territorial disputes with China, while also calling on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to escalate tensions.

In an overt display of unity and reassurance, Obama reiterated a message that Japan has been hoping to hear - that the two countries' mutual defence treaty would cover the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that China calls the Diaoyus and Japan the Senkakus - but he also called on Beijing and Tokyo to resolve any disputes peacefully.

"And let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan's security is absolute, and Article 5 covers all territories under Japan's administration, including the Senkaku Islands," he said after a summit with Abe in Tokyo.

While stressing America's neutral position on sovereignty claims, Obama said Tokyo had historically administered the islands and this should not be "subject to change unilaterally", referring to China's efforts to establish an administrative and military presence in the area.

Until recent years, Washington had been reluctant to publicly clarify its position should a conflict break out between Beijing and Tokyo over the islands.

But in a written interview with Japan's Yomiuri Shimbum published on Wednesday, Obama became the first serving US president to say that the islands were covered by the alliance treaty.

Japanese media reported that the same statement was expected to be included in a joint declaration between the two leaders. The declaration was delayed as negotiators from both countries were still trying to narrow their differences over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

With tensions over the islands intensifying, the US has recently stepped up rhetorical support for Tokyo while criticising China for its "intimidation and coercion" in the disputed area.

Watch: Obama backs Japan in China island row

But Obama yesterday called on his Japanese counterpart to refrain from further provocation and seek dialogue with China.

"I emphasised with Prime Minister Abe the importance of resolving this issue peacefully - not escalating the situation, keeping the rhetoric low, not taking provocative actions, and trying to determine how both Japan and China can work co-operatively together," Obama said.

Obama is using his tour of Asia to reassure allies as bitter territorial disputes continue with an increasingly assertive China.


Related topics

More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

The card here is China. By making this publicly clear, Obama is hoping in hope that Abe will be comforted and appeased so that he'll not ratchet up his already foolish provocative actions. It may look like Obama is aiding/siding Japan but in reality he doesn't want Japan to push the boundary so far in such a way where US really get pulled into a war with China. My view is that behind all the words the last thing US want is a war with China!
I find Obama's decision to explicitly including the islands under article 5 is just adding fuel to the fire. Also, did Obama got the short end of the stick for making the statement when TPP is still in limbo?
Instead of staying neutral on the sovereignty issue as promised by the US, Obama is changing the status quo and is tilting more towards Tokyo possibly on the consideration of his pacific pivot plan to contain China plus TPP.
He is also talking from both sides of his mouth: article 5 and Japan-China should resolve it "peacefully". But how do you resolve peacefully when Abe refuses to negotiate?
"Tokyo had historically administered the islands" - yes, but this is "unilaterally" decided by US without China/Taiwan's consent when they were weak and I thought Obama is telling China not to "unilaterally" change the status quo.
I do not think China is going to walk away "tail between legs" after this. There will be repercussions and I hope it does not end badly for anyone.
Time is also on China's side. With the disparity of the projected future GDP growth rate between China, US and Japan, China will just wait till it is "stronger" to force the issue.
the ultimate national interest of the US in east asia is preventing formation of Asian Union by wedging in ...as well as a heat war supposed to get involved with directly
"Now the situation has been clarified" - not really, only that now Obama came out and said: islands are under article 5 protection instead of just Hagel and Kerry.
Notice that Obama left the sovereignty issue as is, which is basically "sweeping the dirt under the rug" for now.
The only way you know US's true position is when war erupts between China and Japan and whether US will come to Japan's rescue at that time.
IMO, this statement by Obama is also transitional, i.e. it maybe not be relevant say in 10 years when the geopolitical balance changes.
The US comes out upholding the "Status Quo" as if it were sacred. Well, let's all wake up and smell the coffee: the current status quo is a result of many wars and unfair treaties, when China was weak and bullied and torn apart. Only fools would expect the status quo to be maintained forever.
It has been more than 50 years of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and no breakthrough. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has formed the core part of the wider Arab–Israeli conflict as well as terrorist plot against U.S. interests in the worldwide. So, should President Obama more focus on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, instead of his strategic pivot to Asia?
China and the Chinese people have always viewed the United States as a friend, as shown by numerous surveys and studies over the years. In contrast, the US regards in no uncertain terms China as an adversary and enemy, and has recklessly resorted to adopt any means to contain China. Japan is one of America's pawns to contain China. But at the same time Japan is cunningly manipulating and using the US for its own hidden agenda. It would be hard for either China or Russia to be a friend of the United States when the US tries to contain China and Russia so relentlessly to the extent that nothing short of total subservience under the thumb of US will do.
I have not seen any country in which the US and EU got involved in what started as a local conflict have a good ending. Those countries are either in war torn, devastated by civil war or became economically destitute. Now the question in many people’s mind regarding Middle Eastern turmoil is if it is an Arabic spring or really an Arabic winter in hell.
Jennie PC Chiang/江佩珍 04/25/14 美國
What OB said in Tokyo never really matters
especially so as AF1 broadcast a final appraisal
of OB’s visit to Japan while it was en route to Seoul
“Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to”
No administrative protection without TPP control
From Abe’s look in the photo
we may guess what BO had told him
that the US is ultimately just bluffing
Security is meaningful only in conventional situations
and would become irrelevant when conflicts are upgraded to nuclear
Then Japan would be on its own
Security of administration without sovereignty is meaningless
once nuclear annihilation becomes realistically very probable
The US can’t accept the risk of one percent hit in the US mainland
for Japan to usurp sovereignty of Diaoyu
Japan is confronted by the nonplus
that if it prevails in conventional conflicts
China will go nuclear and the US will retreat
As Japan can’t afford to prevail conventionally
there isn’t much Japan can do in the meantime
while China is building up the country's conventional capabilities
Mr.Obama forgotten what he criticized Mr.Putin on Annexation of Crimea, accussing the him of redrawing the world boundaries and now what he declared in Japan is comletely contradictory to his speech. Perhaps, he ahould need a caretaker to rwmind him that he is eating his words, most of the time!
How About
Right on pslhk and hongkiejj@malay...! Read how in the home turf the New York Times is already condescending Hussein-O's failure before his trip ends. Remember LBJ who succeeded JFK who got through the Civil Rights Act at a hefty price, so too has BHO's Obamacare- that he must be compliant to what the puppeteers' calls to the rest of the policy.
To baysidedweller, words by this comedian is really cheap, and think nothing too significant will become of it, one way or the other. BHO still fully intends to collect his annual 200k pension after his term finishes.
I would not read too much in this posturing and declaration by Obama which is expected. pretty old news as a matter of fact.
whatever it is, china n usa will continue to do what is best for their own interest. others are just on the sideline.
time is on china side and eventually, without a shot fired...china will prevail if they can fix and boost up their economy dominance while continue to enhance their military.
japan will have no choice but to back down ...either gracefully or war threat.



SCMP.com Account