US needs to fulfill 'not-taking-sides' commitment

Updated: 2012-09-18 20:11


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BEIJING - As China and Japan are stuck in an escalating tension over the Diaoyu Islands, the US needs to show with convincing moves that it "does not take sides" in the dispute, for the sake of regional peace and stability.

Washington has said once and again that it does not take sides in the dispute, a commitment that was also reiterated by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who is in Beijing for a four-day visit to China. It is the second leg of his week-long Asia-Pacific tour that also brings him to Japan and New Zealand.

Panetta said during talks with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on Tuesday that East Asia maritime issues should be resolved via peaceful diplomatic means.

However, during his Japan visit, Panetta discussed with his Japanese counterpart Satoshi Morimoto the deployment of the Osprey aircraft at a Marine base in Okinawa, a plan that has provoked strong local opposition.

Earlier on the same day, Panetta announced the US and Japan had agreed to locate the second US missile defense radar in Japan to monitor possible threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Although the moves are said to be not targeted at China, military boost from the US at such a sensitive moment could embolden Japan to take a tougher stance in the tensions with China, which is not only unhelpful in resolving the issue, but also dangerous.

Regarding the Diaoyu Islands, the Chinese government has always followed a guideline proposed by the country's late leader Deng Xiaoping and described as "laying aside differences and engaging in joint exploitation."

But last week's "purchase" claims of Diaoyu Islands from the Japanese government laid a finger on the bottom lines of the Chinese government and its people. Anti-Japan sentiment has been rising high.

But, so far, the Japanese side has not shown enough goodwill to peacefully solve the issue.

On Tuesday, the 81st anniversary of the "Sept 18 Incident", which directly preceded Japan's invasion of northeast China, two Japanese people landed on Diaoyu Islands around 9:30 am, a move likely to further strain bilateral relations.

If the US truly takes no side in the confrontation, it should make concrete moves to persuade Japan from taking further provocative actions.

Well-being of the two peoples of China and Japan is more important than whatever political agenda behind the abrupt "purchase" decision of the Japanese government and the subsequent intercession by the US.

Normal ties between Asia's two largest economies are not only crucial to the financial stability of the countries themselves, but also to the whole Asia-Pacific Region, including the US.