US President Barack Obama is opening a four-country visit to the Asia-Pacific region in Japan, but the West’s dispute with Russia over Ukraine is looming.
Mr. Obama arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday night on an official state visit. He was headed straight for a private dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before bilateral talks on Thursday. Mr. Obama also will be the honoured guest at a state dinner.
The situation in Eastern Europe remains tense days after the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the European Union signed an agreement calling on Moscow to use its influence to get pro-Russian forces to leave government buildings they have occupied in eastern Ukraine.
The West promises additional sanctions against Russia if that does not happen.
Mr. Obama will also visit South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.
President Barack Obama confirmed on Wednesday that America’s mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands at the centre of a territorial dispute between China and Japan.
“The policy of the United States is clear,” he said in a written response to questions published in Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper before his arrival in Tokyo at the start of a four-country, Asia-Pacific region tour.
“The Senkaku islands are administered by Japan” and therefore fall under the U.S.-Japan treaty, he wrote. “And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.”
A Chinese government spokesman responded that China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the islands, and said “the so-called Japan-U.S. alliance” should not harm China’s territorial rights.
“We firmly oppose applying the Japan-U.S. security treaty in the issue of the Diaoyu islands,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular briefing. “The U.S. should respect facts, take a responsible attitude, remain committed to not taking sides on territory and sovereignty issues, speak and act cautiously, and earnestly play a constructive role in regional peace and stability.”
Mr. Obama told Yomiuri that the United States is deepening its ties with China, but “our engagement with China does not and will not come at the expense of Japan or any other ally.”