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Ambassador takes issue with US remarks on Diaoyu Islands

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-01 11:30

China's ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, expressed dismay on Tuesday over remarks by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel regarding the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

At a joint news conference on Monday at the Pentagon with visiting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Hagel said the two had discussed ongoing tensions in the area. China regards the situation in the East China Sea as a crucial regional security challenge that must be resolved peacefully and cooperatively.

"In our discussion today, I reiterated the principles that govern long-standing US policy on the Senkaku Islands," Hagel said, using Japan's term for the disputed territory. "The United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, but we do recognize they are under the administration of Japan and fall under our security treaty obligations."

Hagel said any action that could heighten tensions or lead to a miscalculation would affect the stability of the entire region.

"Therefore, the United States opposes any unilateral or coercive action that seeks to undermine Japan's administrative control, a message General [Martin] Dempsey conveyed to his counterparts last week in Beijing," he said, referring to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Cui, who recently assumed the post of ambassador in Washington, was quoted by the People's Daily as saying that "it is the Japanese side that has triggered and escalated tensions on the Diaoyu Islands, and it's also Japan that undertook unilateral or coercive action".

"We hope that no other party will lift this rock off Japan, only to let the rock drop on his own feet," Cui said using a Chinese idiom akin to shooting oneself in the foot.

Cui also said that what Hagel told reporters about the conversation Dempsey had on his visit to Beijing last week didn't jibe with the facts.

"The Chinese side exchanged views with General Dempsey on a wide range of issues and unequivocally stated its stance. The US side should have been debriefed of the meetings and known the real situation," Cui said.

Regarding Hagel's comment about the US opposing any unilateral or coercive action aimed at undermining Japan's administrative control, Cui said the history of the Diaoyu Islands is clear.

"From a historic perspective, the US side bears a certain responsibility," he said, referring to the ceding of control of the islands to Japan by the United States in 1971. The Americans had maintained control over them since the 1945 victory over Japan in World War II.

"China has never recognized Japan's sovereignty or administrative right over the Diaoyu Islands. And the Chinese side has repeatedly stated this to the US," Cui said.

The ambassador also commented on the April 23 visit by 168 Japanese lawmakers to the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead are buried, including figures China regards as criminals of World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe questioned the description of Japanese "aggression" in World War II, saying the term is vague and subject to the interpretation by different sides.

As to whether the US has maintained its neutrality over the Diaoyu Islands dispute, Cui said proof of that will depend on American actions.

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