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Tension escalates as US envoy arrives

By ZHANG YUNBI, WU JIAO in Beijing, TAN YINGZI in Washington and FU JING in Brussels  (China Daily)

08:29, October 17, 2012

Japan plays up Chinese sea drill and launches propaganda blitz

A senior US diplomat arrived in Beijing amid tensions with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands as Tokyo launched a global propaganda blitz to support its claims over the islands that belong to China.

The visit came as tension escalated following Japanese media overhyping a routine naval voyage in international waters by Chinese vessels into something more alarming.

Commenting on the visit, observers said Washington should remember its promise of neutrality on the issue and refrain from meddling in troubled waters.

US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns arrived in Beijing on Tuesday evening, from Tokyo, the fourth senior US official to visit China this year.

He is expected to meet Chinese officials on Wednesday before flying to Myanmar.

Sun Zhe, a professor on American studies at Tsinghua University, said the visit will probably not make a major difference in easing tension.

Cecil Haney, the United States Pacific Fleet's commander, on Tuesday reiterated Washington's stance of not taking sides over the issue.

But Tokyo is poised for a November drill with Washington that will simulate a retaking of a remote island from foreign forces. Kyodo News said the drill was aimed at the Diaoyu Islands.

The Foreign Ministry warned on Tuesday that "intentionally highlighting the security agenda and fueling regional tensions are not conducive to political and mutual trust in the region".

Haney said the drill was not directed at any third party.

David Shambaugh, China specialist and director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University, agreed with the US taking a neutral stance on the issue.

He said China should understand that Washington is a treaty ally of Japan, but "to be supportive to the US-Japan alliance is not necessary to be supportive to Japan's claim to those islands". He suggested that the tensions should be resolved through negotiations or "shelving" them for the moment.

"If the dispute cannot be resolved, it should be shelved just like Premier Zhou Enlai and Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka agreed in 1972," he told China Daily.

"Now in this particular instance, Japan has taken the initiative to change the agreement that Tanaka and Zhou made in 1972 by ‘purchasing' those islands, so Japan is responsible for attempting to change the status quo," Shambaugh said.

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