US senator's comments draw fire

Updated: 2013-08-23 00:19

By ZHANG YUNBI (China Daily)

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Ex-presidential hopeful McCain calls Diaoyu Islands 'Japanese'

Beijing on Thursday denounced remarks of US Senator John McCain as "irresponsible" after he said China's Diaoyu Islands are "Japanese territory".

The Republican lawmaker is "muddying the waters" at a time when tensions over the islands standoff between China and Japan are running high, and he is making trouble for Washington on the issue, observers said.

McCain said in Tokyo on Wednesday that "the Chinese are violating fundamental rights that Japan has" to the islands.

Nations feeling increasingly threatened by China's maritime presence "need to act in closer coordination with each other", the said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei rebutted such comments. "The Diaoyu Islands have been China's territory since ancient times, and any individual's attempt to deny the facts will be in vain," he told China Daily on Thursday.

"We urge the US lawmaker to stop making irresponsible remarks and avoid further complicating related issues and the regional situation."

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said McCain is "not entitled" to speak on behalf of the US government and his remarks will embarrass Washington.

Kyodo commented that McCain's remarks deviate from the official US stance that the United States does not take a position on the sovereignty of the islands.

"Washington previously has clarified its position in this regard, and seems to have no plan to change its vagueness on it," Ruan said.

On Wednesday, McCain called on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to boost the US-Japanese alliance.

When meeting with Onodera, McCain said he is confident that his colleagues in the US Senate support Japan's position on the islands, Jiji Press news agency reported.

Onodera said Tokyo plans to continue its surveillance of Chinese government ship patrols around the Diaoyu Islands.

Da Zhigang, a Japanese studies researcher at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said McCain is trying to "please some of the Japanese and attract more of the media limelight". Such US politicians are "not expecting either a peaceful resolution of the islands dispute or a stable Asia-Pacific region", he said.

McCain also voiced support for the Japanese Cabinet's plan to revise their country's pacifist Constitution, a move aimed at lifting restrictions on Japan's armed forces.

Some of Tokyo's policymakers have been trying to deny the country's militarist past in World War II, and Japan is seeking an assertive military buildup, which has "worried international players, including the US", said Xu Dunxin, former vice-minister of foreign affairs.

"If someday Japan goes off the peaceful path, I think even the US, its traditional ally, will not allow that to happen," said Xu, who also served as Chinese ambassador to Japan.

McCain's remarks are sending a motivating signal to radical Japanese right-wing forces, and also "totally missing the bigger picture of the Sino-US relationship", Ruan said.

The Sino-Japanese relationship was greatly strained after the Japanese government unilaterally announced the "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands in September.