Pentagon chief calls for calm in Japan-China territorial spat


U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, left, listens to a question from U.S. military personnel stationed at Yokota in Japan Monday, September 17, 2012. Panetta, who is on the first official stop of a three nation tour to Japan, China and New Zealand, says that U.S. and Japanese officials have agreed to put a second missile defense system in Japan. The exact location has not yet been determined. AP/Larry Downing, Pool

TOKYO – US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called for diplomatic efforts to resolve a worsening territorial spat between Japan and China on Monday, the day after warning disputes could draw East Asia into war.

Speaking after meetings in Tokyo with senior Japanese figures, Panetta urged “calm and restraint on all sides” in a row over disputed islands that has rapidly escalated in the last week into sometimes violent protests in China.

“Obviously we’re concerned by the demonstrations and the conflict over the Senkaku islands,” Panetta said, referring to the Japanese-administered archipelago that China claims and calls Diaoyu.

“It is extremely important that diplomatic means on both sides be used to try to constructively resolve these issues,” he said, adding a resolution of the dispute has to be based on “clear principles” and international law.

“It’s in everybody’s interest for Japan and China to maintain good relations and to find a way to avoid further escalation,” said Panetta, pounding the podium for emphasis.

Panetta arrived in Tokyo on Sunday evening after days of anti-Japanese protests had rocked cities across China, with diplomatic missions being targeted in some instances.

Serious consequences

Speaking to reporters travelling on his plane, Panetta said intemperate actions over the disputed East China Sea islands could have serious consequences.

“It raises the possibility that a misjudgement on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict,” he said.

“And that conflict would then have the potential of expanding.”

Japan and China, Asia’s two largest economies, have long been at loggerheads over the island chain, but tensions have spiked recently.

Last week, Japan announced it had nationalised three of the islands, triggering an angry reaction in China. Tokyo already owns another and leases the fifth.

The uninhabited islands lie along important shipping lanes and the seabed nearby is thought to harbour valuable mineral resources.

Panetta said Monday the US commitment to Japan, in the form of a mutual defense treaty, was unwavering.

“Obviously we stand by our treaty obligations. They are longstanding, and that does not change.”

The US has around 47,000 troops stationed in Japan.

But he said the United States as a matter of policy does not take a position on the territorial dispute.

Change in itinerary

Panetta’s week-long Asian tour includes visits to Beijing and Auckland but his schedule originally did not include a stop in Tokyo. The row over the islands likely prompted the change in his itinerary, analysts said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, who met with the former CIA chief earlier in the day, called on Beijing to dial down the temperature on the dispute.

“Anti-Japan demonstrations are spreading on a scale never seen before. Some of them have turned into riots. It is truly regrettable that Japanese businesses have suffered significant damage,” he said.

Reports Monday suggested Japanese firms were curtailing their operations in China after factories there were targeted.

“I will again ask the Chinese government to take appropriate measures. I hope law and order will be respected,” the foreign minister said.

Gemba said he told Panetta that Japan was seeking to keep a lid on the row.

“We have agreed that Japan and the United States will cooperate to ensure that Japan-China relations will not be seriously harmed,” he added.

“Double-edged sword”

An editorial in the People’s Daily — the mouthpiece of the Communist Party — on Monday hinted at possible sanctions on Japan over the dispute.

Acknowledging sanctions would be a “double-edged sword” for China, the paper said Japan could be set back up to 20 years if Beijing chose to make its fourth-largest trading partner suffer.

“Amidst a struggle that touches on territorial sovereignty, if Japan continues its provocations China will inevitably take on the fight,” it said.

Japan is a big investor in China, with two-way trade worth $342.9 billion last year, according to Chinese official data.

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  • ztefertilizerscam6

    Chinese are arrogant…

    • Anonymous

      It’s the Japanese that are arrogant. Why can’t they just return Kuril Islands to Russia, Dokdo to South Korea & Diaoyu to China? The Potsdam declaration & Cairo declaration orders Japan to do so, yet Japan does not want to.

      • Halo

        Why cant china dropped its stupid claim on the scarborough shoals, the spratley islands?

      • Pangkatbukid

        China the most arrogant of them all, their government and its people.Look what they did on  PH bec.of teritorial disputes they made our bananas rot in chinese port.If you will be against them,they will saction you economically.And  for $103 billion military budget for 2012 what do you think where they will using that big money,they are not in any war.They are preparing for war against Asian neighbors.

  • Jhon

    Itong US, parang unggong… Anong calm ang sinasabi nito. Parang tanga.

  • TreadLikely

    These violent protest and riots just don’t happen in China without the Government’s consent.

    Go figure.

  • Banana Na

    ito naman ang gusto ng US, pag-awayan ang mga countries sa ASIA, para maging masaya sila…US really will benefits every-WAR happenings in ASIA…para , lahat ng asian countries ay apektado at magiging very slow ang economy at kung nagka-war at nasira ang mga bansa sa asia, US ulit ang hahanapin mo to re-build everything that was destroyed in your countries, they will sell you expensives prices that you cannot say no, kasi kailangan mo to re-build it plus loans with high interest syempre…jan lang naman sila kumikita ng mabilis at selling weapons to this countries…magiging number one ulit sila kasi sira-sira na ang bansa ng asia kung sakali nagka-WAR…superpower ulit sila in military at in economy….

    • Anonymous

       I agree with you my friend. This is how the USA makes big bucks… magbenta ng mga armas sa mga nag-aaway na bansa.

  • Nueva

    cge nga war nga kayo para malaman ng buong mundo kung sino mas magaling sa inyo japan vs china

    • Halo

      Be careful what you wish for. War between the two will bring down world economy. WWIII will not be far behind

  • prangka

    Should a war erupts between Japan and China, it is impossible not to take sides here, therefore we would rather choose the one with a similar situation like us: the one being bullied by big country.  I don’t see why the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan along with US not to support Japan. As a citizen of the Philippine, I would support Japan should peace be impossible dealing with China.

    • Halo

       Impossible ata ang taiwan kasi mga taiwanese ang kasama ng mga chinese nung naglagay ng chinese flag sa disputed islands few weeks ago.

  • EC

    Habang lumalakas itong China ay lalong naging arogante. Oras na para leksyonin na sila. I cast my lot with Japan.

  • Paliwaweng

    China’s growing vociferous stance speaks of its greed and real color. And her constant bullying of its smaller neighbors is alarming. Aware of its newfound economic and military might, she seems to be playing the idea of gobbling all islands close to her territory by force and intimidation.
    Not to content with her vast land area, she seems to want more,
    China’s greed is uncomparable. 

    • tarikan

      China not only wants to gobble islands close to its territory but even far, far away ignoring international conventions on the law of the sea. Yumabang na ang mga hinayu*** porque’t nagkarun na ng pera. Dati nung palugaw-lugaw laang, mga tahimik kasi gutom. Ngayun busog na naghahanap ng ma-bully.  

    • jasper627

      I cannot agree more. China is now acting like the Chinese emperors of old; they think that China is the suzerain of all East Asian countries and the latter as mere tributaries owing allegiance to them. If we want to trade with China, we must first submit to them as overlords and give tributes and gifts to the emperor. Those tributes include the whole of West Philippine Sea, the Spratlys, and other islands in the region. China is nothing but a greedy bully, and the only way to stop a bully is to confront them squarely and stand up to them.

  • mynnyx

    pagnagkagiyera alang kakampi ang mga tsikwa………..pagkakaisahan sya ng hapon at mga asiano………hehehehehehehehehe paktay na………..

  • tarikan

    Mga kabayan kalimutan na natin na ginira tayo ng Hapon. Kaibigan na natin sya (sa dami ba naman ng japayuki). Mainland tsekwa is the new enemy. Pero ingat tayo na hwag idamay ang mga local PH tsekwa. 

  • mark sahaoman

    don’t buy china products.. yun lang ang solusyon. pag patuloy natin tangkilikin ang china products patuloy silang lalakas…

  • Lyd Con

    now that japan officially owned senkakaku islands,,,china must accept the realities that those japanese-controlled senkakaku islands …are now part of japan’s..territorial boundaries….              to china and chinese as well… feel the truth….but please ..accept the reality …that senkaku islands….belongs to japan and japanese as well…..

  • sigena

    ang america neutral sa gula ng japan at china. tapos ang pilipinas umaasa sa tulong ng u.s. nakakatawa talaga si abnoy. sunod gawin ng china palayasin yung mga dh sa hongkong

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