Obama: Japanese island chain part of US treaty


President Obama said Wednesday he opposes any attempt to undermine Japan's responsibility over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea.

In a written statement to a Japanese newspaper published ahead of his arrival in the country, Obama said a U.S.-Japan defense treaty covers the islands. 

“The policy of the United States is clear — the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security," he told The Yomiuri Shimbun. "And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands.”

That section of the 1960 treaty outlines the response to an armed attack in Japan and declares both parties would respond to meet the common danger. 

News surrounding the island chain flared up when China established an air defense zone over the Japanese-held islands last November. The Obama administration had said it was deeply concerned over the move and flew two B-52s through the zone shortly after it was set up without informing China.  

“Disputes need to be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy, not intimidation and coercion,” Obama said. 

Japan took administrative control over the islands from the United States in 1972. But China has claimed them since then after oil deposits were thought to have been found there. 

In the newspaper, Obama also expressed hope on the Trans-Pacific trade deal under negotiation, noting "it won't be easy."

He also stated that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable, noting it is a threat to the region.  

“The commitment of the United States to the security of Japan and South Korea will remain unwavering,” the president said.

Obama landed in Tokyo on Wednesday morning on the first leg of his eight-day trip to Asia, where he will visit four countries.