Beijing asserts that China will defends its “national sovereignty and territory,” no matter what the U.S. says.
Following their meeting Friday, President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe released a joint statement explaining that “Article V of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security covers the Senkaku Islands,” disputed territories claimed by the Chinese but administered by Japan. The U.S. first took this position under the Obama administration, but the joint statement released by the president and the Japanese prime minister is one of the strongest affirmations thus far. The two leaders stated that the U.S. and Japan “oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.”
“No rhetoric or actions, from whomsoever, will change the fact that Diaoyu Dao belongs to China or waver China’s resolve and determination to uphold its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said, referring to the Senkaku Islands by their Chinese name, the Diaoyu Islands. “Japan and the US should exercise prudence and stop making wrong remarks so as not to complicate relevant issues or bring negative impact on regional peace and stability,” he added.
One week prior to the meeting between Trump and Abe, Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Tokyo, where he said the U.S. would defend the contested islands in the event of an attack.
China criticized Mattis for stirring up regional tensions and causing instability.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the U.S.-Japanese security agreement an outdated relic of the Cold War “which should not impair China’s territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights.”
“We urge the U.S. side to take a responsible attitude, stop making wrong remarks on the issue involving the Diaoyu Islands sovereignty, and avoid making the issue more complicated and bringing instability to the regional situation,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang explained.
“Diaoyu and its affiliated islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times. These are historical facts that cannot be changed,” he added.
In Friday’s joint statement, Trump and Abe called “on countries concerned to avoid actions that would escalate tensions in the South China Sea, including the militarization of outposts, and to act in accordance with international law.” Although China was not mentioned specifically, the message was clear.
Mattis’ said previously that the U.S. is not planning any “dramatic military moves” in the region; however, he did state that the U.S. will uphold freedom of navigation.
The U.S. will reportedly carry out freedom-of-navigation operations on a regular basis to challenge Chinese activities in the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands, several Navy officials told reporters.
“China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters. China is firmly committed to upholding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng said in response to Trump and Abe’s joint statement.
“China’s construction activities on its own islands and reefs are entirely within its own sovereignty and have nothing to do with militarization. Certain countries either send vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea to flex muscles or sow discord. This is exactly the largest contributor to militarization in the South China Sea. We urge the US and Japan to view the South China Sea issue in an objective and rational light and do more things that are conductive to peace and stability in the South China Sea rather than the opposite,” he added.
Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the phone Thursday night. The call was “extremely cordial,” and the two leaders discussed several key issues affecting the bilateral relationship. Nonetheless, certain problems, such as U.S. involvement in Asia’s territorial disputes continue to trouble China.
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