WASHINGTON – The United States has warned China to cease engaging in a rapidly increasing number of “risky” maritime activities aimed at claiming the Japan-controlled islets in the East China Sea, a senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday.
The United States told China in recent high-level talks of its concerns over China’s behavior in various Asia-Pacific issues, including “an unprecedented spike in risky activity” near the Senkaku Islands, the diplomat said in a written testimony at a congressional panel.
Deputy U.S. Secretary of State William Burns conveyed the concerns to the Chinese side during his recent trip to Beijing, according to the testimony by Daniel Russel, assistant U.S. secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
The U.S. concerns also include China’s unilateral establishment of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, according to the testimony submitted to the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific under the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee.
Burns’ counterparts in the meetings in Beijing included Vice President Li Yuanchao and State Councilor Yang Jiechi.
“The Senkakus are under the administration of Japan and unilateral attempts to change the status quo raise tensions and do nothing under international law to strengthen territorial claims,” Russel said in the written testimony.
Russel told a session that Burns raised the concerns in the talks with the Chinese about “a growing incremental pattern of efforts” by China to assert control over some areas in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Matt Salmon said China’s approach seemed to be, “we’re going to see what we can get away with, and if the U.S. has the guts, the cojones, to challenge us.” Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly said from a distance it looks like China is “picking a fight with Vietnam, with the Philippines, with Japan, among others.”
Chinese maritime agencies have frequently sent ships into Japanese territorial waters near the group of uninhabited islets and have them sail close to Japan Coast Guard boats since 2012.
The U.S. government has refrained from taking sides in the sovereignty disputes but said the Senkakus are covered by the 1960 security treaty with Japan, which obliges the United States to defend Japan.