BEIJING – The top U.S. diplomat for East Asian affairs expressed concern Saturday over the persistent wrangling between Japan and China and said he hopes Asia’s two biggest economies will settle the Senkaku dispute and other disagreements in a peaceful manner.
“The friction and tension between Tokyo and Beijing is a matter of concern to all neighbors and certainly to the United States,” Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters in Beijing, the last leg of his five-country Asian tour.
“We hope leaders on all sides will exercise restraint and sensitivity, and will consistently pursue diplomatic and friendly means to manage disputes or to resolve outstanding issues,” Russel said after meeting with senior Chinese officials, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Liu Zhenmin, vice foreign minister in charge of Asian affairs.
Russel said the international community is concerned about two such important nations remaining at odds at a time when “the global economy is too fragile.”
“We hope that quiet diplomatic engagement between Japan and China bears fruit,” he said, adding that Washington noted with interest the first face-to-face contact between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping earlier this month on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Russia.
Before arriving in Beijing on Friday for a two-day visit, Russel visited Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea on his first Asian trip since taking up his post in July.
Relations between Japan and China have sunk to their lowest point in years since the central government last September bought a significant portion of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands from their private Japanese owner.
The islets are claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.
Meanwhile on Saturday, four Chinese Coast Guard ships sailed in Japanese territorial waters near the islets, the Japan Coast Guard said.
The intrusion was the first since Tuesday and the 64th in the last 12 months.
The four ships entered the waters around 10 a.m. and left around 2:35 p.m., according to the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.