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Print Edition> World
UPDATED: February 7, 2013 NO. 7 FEBRUARY 14, 2013
A Triple Threat
The United States should broaden its approach to the Diaoyu Islands dispute
By An Gang

WATER TESTING: Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee, meets with Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of Japan's co-ruling New Komeito Party, in Beijing on January 25 (HUANG JINGWEN)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to kick off his first visit to the United States in mid-February since regaining the position. The world will undoubtedly keep a close eye on his visit with a focus on the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan and the ongoing historic change in East Asia's strategic landscape. Washington's statement and attitude during Abe's coming visit will therefore create an inevitable and non-negligible influence on the future development of the islands dispute.

Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a statement on the Diaoyu Islands following her meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on January 18. "Although the United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands, we acknowledge they are under the administration of Japan and we oppose any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine Japanese administration and we urge all parties to take steps to prevent incidents and manage disagreements through peaceful means," she said.

Japan interpreted Clinton's statement as having Washington's support. And the public opinion of the world also considered the statement to be the toughest message that the United States released to China. The words marked Clinton's last endeavor aimed at pushing forward Washington's strategy of rebalancing to Asia before leaving office.

Because of Clinton's statement, Chinese people are more convinced that Washington's position on the dispute between China and Japan is biased and it will continue to use Japan to contain China. "The comments by the U.S. side are ignorant of facts and indiscriminate of right and wrong," said Qin Gang, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. But there is reason to believe Clinton must have exerted pressure and made specific demands on Japan before making that statement.

The United States does have a major interest in maintaining peace and stability in East Asia. China doesn't think Washington intends to disturb the East Asian situation. Actually, Washington faces a strategic dilemma when dealing with the issue. On the one hand, it cannot ignore Japan's status as its "strategic cornerstone," because it needs to use Japan to balance and hedge against China to realize its "Pacific Century." On the other hand, it must squarely face China's emergence and admit that its relationship with China is at the core of its Asia-Pacific strategy.

Double-faced tactic

Abe started "envoy diplomacy" to China in mid-January. The most eye-catching one was his ruling partner's China visit. Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the New Komeito Party, arrived in Beijing with a signed letter that Abe wrote to Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. At their meeting on January 25, Xi urged the Japanese side to respect the historic reality and make joint efforts with China to seek effective methods for appropriately controlling and resolving problems through dialogue and consultation.

"Under the new circumstances, we should shoulder national and historical responsibilities as well as display political wisdom, just like the elder generations of leaders of the two countries, to overcome difficulties and advance China-Japan relations," said the Chinese leader.

It was also reported that Yamaguchi inquired about the possibility of a future summit between Chinese and Japanese leaders. Xi said he would seriously consider a high-level dialogue, but also stressed the meeting should be held under proper circumstances.

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