Latest Stories

Obama enters new term with tough tone on China

ANOTHER 4 YEARS President Barack Obama speaks at his ceremonial swearing-in at the US Capitol during the 57th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. AP

WASHINGTON — When Barack Obama first entered the White House, the leader who campaigned on a message of hope and change had called for new areas of cooperation between the United States and a rising China.

Four years later, Obama is starting his second term with his administration taking a tough tone on China over a territorial dispute with US ally Japan, prompting a rebuke from Beijing on the eve of his inauguration.

The shift marks part of a gradual transition in Obama’s policy toward China, with some analysts noting that Beijing had taken a more assertive stance due to perceptions the United States was in decline.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meeting Friday with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan’s new right-leaning government, issued a veiled warning over the islands known as the Senkakus in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese.

The United States opposes “any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration” of the largely uninhabited islands after growing accounts of Chinese ships and planes in the area, Clinton said.

China said it was “strongly dissatisfied with and resolutely opposes” Clinton’s remarks and the state-run Xinhua news agency said that Obama “failed to significantly enhance strategic trust” between the countries in his first term.

The three nations have all taken small conciliatory steps since Friday, with Xinhua also saying that it was “cautiously optimistic” that Obama would improve ties in his second term.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, known for his hawkish views, sent the leader of his pacifist-oriented coalition partner New Komeito to hand-deliver a letter to China’s leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said there was “nothing new” in Clinton’s remarks.

The United States has previously indicated that it does not take a position on the islands’ sovereignty but considers them under the effective control of Japan — and hence protected by a US security treaty.

But Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that Clinton marked a shift by saying — without mentioning Beijing by name — that the United States opposed China’s actions.

“The administration over the last several months has tried through quiet diplomacy to encourage both sides to be restrained,” she said.

“My own view is that we’ve seen a lot more restraint from the Japanese than we have from the Chinese. I think the Chinese are taking advantage of every opportunity to escalate the situation and to make their claim on the ground, if you will, irreversible.”

In September, a previous Japanese government bought the islands from private Japanese landowners, in what it described as a way to head off a more provocative bid by Tokyo’s then nationalist local governor to develop them.

China has since dispatched marine surveillance ships and vowed to exert sovereignty over the islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan.

The move comes as China undergoes a once-in-a-decade leadership transition. Nationalists took to the streets of Chinese cities in September to voice anger against Japan, a rare step in a country where protests are usually banned.

Clinton has been at the forefront of renewed US focus on Asia.

In perhaps the signature moment of the shift on China, she said in Vietnam in 2010 that the United States had a “core interest” in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where several nations accused Beijing of growing assertiveness.

Senator John Kerry, whom Obama has tapped to succeed Clinton, has devoted more time to South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, leading some pundits to predict that East Asia policy will be increasingly led by the White House.

Kerry will lay out his foreign policy ideas at a confirmation hearing on Thursday.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Barack Obama , China , Diplomacy , Foreign Affairs and International Relations , Foreign policy , Politics , US Politics

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Opinions split on Napoles turning state witness
  3. Delfin Lee: Blame Pag-Ibig, not me
  4. Plunder complaint filed vs PNP chief, firearms office head over license delivery deal
  5. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  6. San Juan cops fail to arrest Cedric Lee
  7. More ‘Yolanda’ bodies found
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  10. Boy ‘sexually assaulted’ at Indonesia international school
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  3. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  4. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  8. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  9. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima


  • What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  • Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  • 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  • Napoles surgery in Makati hospital successful
  • Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Sports

  • Mixers trim Aces; Painters repulse Bolts
  • Donaire junks Garcia as coach, taps father
  • ’Bye Ginebra: No heavy heart this time
  • UAAP board tackles new rules
  • Baguio climb to decide Le Tour de Filipinas
  • Lifestyle

  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Visiting chefs from Denmark get creative with ‘ube,’ ‘ buko,’ ‘calamansi,’ mangoes
  • Salted baked potatoes
  • A first in a mall: Authentic Greek yogurt–made fresh in front of diners
  • Entertainment

  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • In love … with acting
  • From prison to the peak of success
  • ‘Asedillo’ location thrives
  • Business

  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Philippine Airlines to stop shipment of shark fins
  • PH banks not ready for Asean integration
  • Stocks down on profit-taking
  • Banks allowed to use ‘cloud’
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  • Believe it or not: Filipinos love US more than Yanks
  • Marketplace