Clinton assures Japan on islands, invites Abe to U.S. in February

Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:49pm EST
 
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By Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Japan on Friday of U.S. support in Tokyo's dispute with Beijing over a string of islands and invited new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Washington in late February for a meeting with President Barack Obama.

Clinton held a working lunch with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, and both emerged pledging that U.S.-Japan security and economic ties would remain strong following Abe's landslide election victory last month.

"Our alliance with Japan remains the cornerstone of American engagement with the region," Clinton told reporters, noting a wide range of cooperation on everything from disaster relief to the stand-off over nuclear North Korea.

Clinton, due to step down in coming weeks, again affirmed that the United States would stand by its longtime ally in its territorial dispute with China over islets in the East China Sea claimed by both countries.

Tensions over the tiny islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have flared in recent months, one of several maritime territorial disputes involving China that have worsened as Washington seeks to shift its security focus to Asia.

"Although the United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, we acknowledge they are under the administration of Japan," Clinton said, repeating the long-standing U.S. position on the dispute.

"We oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration, and we urge all parties to take steps to prevent incidents and manage disagreements through peaceful means."

Kishida signaled that Abe, who had taken a tough stance on the dispute during his election campaign, was not eager to escalate the conflict.   Continued...

 
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) meets Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the State Department in Washington January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron