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Ex-security officials to try easing tensions


08:44, October 22, 2012

US group to encourage China-Japan talks over Diaoyu Islands row

A group of former national security officials from the United States are expected, in a semi-official visit, to try to defuse tensions between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands.

The group, led by former US deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage, started the trip on Saturday and will meet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday and Chinese senior officials on Tuesday, Japan's Jiji Press News Agency said.

Analysts said the visit may help ease the tensions that have arisen between China and Japan and make it easier for the countries to enter dialogues, adding that the US is expected to "do what it says it would do".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has endorsed the Armitage visit and given it quasi-official status, the New York Times said.

The newspaper quoted a member of the group as saying there are no plans to put a specific proposal before the Chinese and Japanese, but that the group is prepared to discuss a variety of possibilities.

Japan's Kyodo News Agency said the visit seeks to avoid long-term confrontation between China and Japan, and the US is expected to take steps to warm the countries' relations.

Tensions have soared since the Japanese government completed an illegal "purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands in mid-September.

The US has declined to take a position in the dispute but has said the Diaoyu Islands fall under the US-Japan security treaty, a contention that has drawn objections from China.

The US stance on the Diaoyu Islands is related to its "pivot to Asia" strategy and its aim, as China's influence becomes greater, to strike a new balance of regional power in East Asia, said Shen Dingli, director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

But the continued tensions, especially with the US posing a greater military threat, will only damage the foundation the US stands on in trying to maintain order in the Asia-Pacific region, Shen said recently.

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