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Provocation unhelpful in island dispute: U.S. State Department

ROC Central News Agency

2012/08/16 13:59:45

Washington, Aug. 15 (CNA) The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that territorial disputes should be resolved peacefully, after 14 people from Hong Kong were arrested by the Japanese authorities for traveling to a disputed island group in the resources-rich East China Sea.

"We expect the claimants to resolve the issue through peaceful means and any kinds of provocation are not helpful in that regard," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a news briefing.

She was referring to the arrests, including of two journalists from a Hong Kong-based television company, by the Japanese government after the group of activists arrived by boat at the Tiaoyutai Islands Wednesday earlier to protest against a planned trip by Japanese lawmakers to the disputed island group Aug. 19.

The island group, called the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyutai Islands in China, is currently under the jurisdiction of the Japanese government, but is also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Nuland said the U.S. will not take sides in the dispute, but added that these kinds of pressures and pushing are not conducive to an environment in which the parties involved can sit down and work things out.

She said that "we want to see Japan and China work through this together. We are not taking sides in it, but it needs to be resolved consensually, not through provocative acts."

The latest incident was triggered by a series of recent developments seen as efforts by Japan to bolster its claim to the island chain. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara announced in April that the metropolitan government was planning to purchase the uninhabited islands from their Japanese private owners.

On July 26, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Japan might resort to military force to defend its territory, including the Senkakus.

Meanwhile, former United States Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said at a seminar in Washington, D.C. that under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security Between the United States and Japan, an alliance pact, the U.S. is obligated to defend the administrative territory of Japan, including the Senkakus.

Asked if Washington is willing to risk confronting China over the disputed island group, he said that if Japan were to take provocative action or largely change the status quo of the islands, the United States would take any measures it considers necessary.

But he also said it is difficult to respond to hypothetical questions, adding only that maintaining the status quo of the region and avoiding confrontations are in the best interests of the United States.

Armitage was speaking at an event sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a leading U.S. think tank.

(By Tony Liao and Lilian Wu)

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