US President Barack Obama has assured ally Japan that it is committed to the country’s defence, including the Senkaku Islands – or the Diaoyu Islands as they are known in China.
The island are at the centre of a row with Beijing. They fall under a security treaty that commits the United States to act if Japan comes under attack.
His comments came at the start of his eight-day four-nation Asia trip.
“Let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute. Article five covers all territories under Japan’s administration including the Senkaku Islands,” the US president said.
The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has been threatening to cast a shadow over Obama’s trip. The US has been weighing up whether to impose new economic sanctions on Moscow if it fails to abide by the terms of the Geneva deal agreed last week.
“We have been preparing for the prospect that we’re going to have to engage in further sanctions. Those are “teed up”. It requires some technical work and it also requires coordination with other countries so the fact that I haven’t announced them yet doesn’t mean they haven’t been prepared and teed up,” Obama warned.
The US president and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reported progress in resolving differences in two-way trade pact negotiations. An agreement is central to the United States’ “pivot” of military, diplomatic and economic resources towards Asia and the Pacific.
The tour does not include a stop in China, however it is widely expected that Beijing will dominate his meetings with regional leaders. His tour will include trips to South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.