TAIPEI (Kyodo) With Japan, China and Taiwan trading barbs over sovereignty of the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the United States has reiterated that the islets are covered by the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

“The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security signed by Tokyo and Washington in 1960, which states that it applies to the territories under the administration of Japan, does apply to the island,” Larry Walker, a spokesman for the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei, said Saturday.

But Walker said the United States reserves judgment on ultimate sovereignty of the islands, which have been under Japanese administrative control since the reversion of Okinawa to Japan from U.S. administrative rule in 1972.

“U.S. does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the islands. We expect the claimants to resolve the issue through peaceful means and among themselves,” he said.

The comments came after China on Thursday expressed “strong dissatisfaction” over remarks by Prime Minister Taro Aso that Japan and the United States would work together to deal with any attack by a third country on the disputed islets, which are claimed by China and Taiwan.

Aso said the islets are Japan’s territory and thus subject to the security alliance with the U.S.

China was quick to react.

“The islets are China’s territory, and China holds indisputable sovereignty over them,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Web site.

Taiwan also slammed Aso’s remarks, with the Foreign Ministry saying Friday the islets are part of its territory.

The islets are surrounded by waters rich in fish and possibly oil and natural gas deposits under the seabed.

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