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HONG KONG (Kyodo) The United States does not recognize any claims regarding the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are administered by Japan but claimed by both China and Taiwan, an adviser to President Barack Obama said Friday.

“The U.S. does not have position on the question of sovereignty regarding the issue of the Diaoyu Islands,” said Benjamin Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications in the White House, using China’s name for the islets.

Rhodes, who was speaking in a video conference with Chinese bloggers set up by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, was responding to a blogger who questioned the United States taking the side of Japan on the issue by including the islets under the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

“We do not recognize the sovereignty claims by neither China nor Japan,” Rhodes said.

Located 170 km northeast of Taipei and 410 km west of Okinawa Island, China and Taiwan have disputed Japan’s claim of sovereignty over the islets, with an eye on the exclusive economic zone in the territorial waters surrounding them that are said to be rich in natural resources.

“We do not want to see China and Japan fighting over the Diaoyu Islands. We believe that Chinese and Japanese leaders have taken steps to avoid it escalating to a bigger dispute, so I don’t think the problem will aggravate in future,” Rhodes said.

The uninhabited islets have been under Japanese control since the United States ceded administration of them to Tokyo in 1972.

Washington says the islets are covered by the Japan-U.S. security treaty, which means the United States is obliged to take action in support of Japan should the islets be invaded.

Ties between China and Japan sank to their lowest in recent times after a Chinese fishing boat skipper was detained by Japanese authorities in September after collisions with Japan Coast Guard vessels trying to shoo it away from around the Senkakus.

No Senkaku charges

Kyodo News

Prosecutors said Friday they will not indict a now ex-coast guardsman who leaked video footage of September collisions involving a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard cutters near the Senkaku Islands or charge the fishing boat’s skipper over the East China Sea run-in.

The Chinese trawler skipper was briefly arrested in Okinawa on suspicion of deliberately colliding with one of the patrol boats but was later released as Tokyo-Beijing ties turned south.

The Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office said will not indict Masaharu Isshiki, a 44-year-old ex-navigator assigned to the Kobe Coast Guard Office, because the JCG overall had mishandled video footage of the run-in.

“It is undeniable that there were shortcomings in the management of the footage” on the part of the Japan Coast Guard, said Hiroaki Yagi, deputy chief prosecutor. “There was no maliciousness in the way (Isshiki) obtained (the footage), nor was it used for gain.”

Isshiki allegedly copied the footage of the collisions in mid-October to a USB data storage device from a shared personal computer aboard the coast guard patrol boat Uranami while serving as navigator, and posted clips taken from it on YouTube from a Kobe Internet cafe in November.

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