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Amid the escalating tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands, a senior US diplomat on Tuesday reiterated his country's neutral stance on the sovereignty issue and urged both parties to solve the problem peacefully.
Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said after a speech at a think tank in Washington that the United States will have a great deal at stake if peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region are endangered.
"We do not take a position on any territorial claims," he said. "We think, in the current environment, we want cooler heads to prevail, frankly," said Campbell.
Considering the slowdown in Europe and sluggish economic recovery in the US, the Asia-Pacific region is the "cockpit of the global economy", he added.
"The stakes could not be bigger," he said.
"We ask countries to seek dialogue and maintain peace and stability."
Earlier on Tuesday, despite strong opposition and serious warnings from Beijing, the Japanese government "purchased" three of the Diaoyu Islands, which belong to China.
Two China Marine Surveillance patrol ships reached waters around the islands on Tuesday morning. The Chinese military also said it "reserves the right" to take action over the territory.
Campbell was bombarded with questions from the audience about the islands after giving a keynote speech on US engagement in the Pacific at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
After giving a brief statement, he refused to make any further comment on the issue. Security experts at the center also declined to comment.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland did not give any further response to the islands question on Tuesday, but referred to Monday's comment.
"Our message to both sides is the same: We want to see this handled calmly. We want to see it handled through dialogue," she said during Monday's news conference.
Referring to the Sino-Japanese relationship, she said: "Good relations between them are important for each of them. They're also important for the region and important for our interests."
Jin Canrong, an American Studies professor at Renmin University of China, said Washington does not take a position on the question of territorial sovereignty because it is necessary to maintain the Yalta system initiated by the US after World War II.
"Washington is concerned about its interests in the East Asia region, and obviously it is more beneficial for it to see the power balance between China and Japan," he said.
Since April, historically sensitive Sino-Japanese ties have been strained by the islands issue. Shintaro Ishihara, the right-wing Tokyo governor, unveiled plans on behalf of the city government to "purchase" the islands from a "private owner".
In July, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced a plan to "nationalize" the islands.
With the Obama administration's pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region, Washington has actively engaged with China and other allies to ensure stability and prosperity in the region.
While attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Russia last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Asian countries to ease tensions over the disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea, according to The Associated Press.
Liu Yedan in Beijing contributed to this story.
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