China 'must respect intl law' / Obama answers Yomiuri questions on Asia security, U.S. allianceU.S. President Barack Obama, in a written response to questions submitted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, said China should respect international law in resolving regional disputes, likely referring to the Japan-China controversy over the Senkaku Islands.
Obama also said he wanted to deepen the bilateral Japan-U.S. alliance, which he called "the cornerstone" of U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific, and urged North Korea to abide by a 2005 pledge to abandon its nuclear weapons.
In his written response received by the Yomiuri on Thursday, Obama said, "The peaceful resolution of outstanding differences and respect for international norms and law are central [to the goal of ensuring security, stability and prosperity in Asia]."
"We look to China to assume responsibilities for addressing regional and global problems," he said.
His responses appear to be an expression of caution against what many see as recent hegemonic behavior by China in the South and East China seas.
Obama's written reply to the Yomiuri's questions was the first interview granted to the Japanese press by the U.S. president prior to this weekend's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Yokohama. He arrived in Japan Friday evening to attend the meeting that will open Saturday.
China in recent years has dispatched armed vessels it calls "fisheries patrol ships" to the South China Sea, insisting they provide protection to Chinese fishing boats in the area. However, many observers believe the move is to put the area under effective Chinese control. The Japanese government has become concerned "China is now doing the same thing in the East China Sea," according to a Foreign Ministry official.
Obama's statement that China should abide by international norms and laws could be interpreted as a rejection of China's attempt to unilaterally change the status quo concerning the Senkaku Islands, which Japan controls and administers as part of Okinawa Prefecture, a fact that has been recognized as legitimate under international law.
Obama said the United States would continue its policy of engagement with China. At the same time, however, he emphasized the need for discussions with Japan and other Asian nations over what kind of approach should be adopted in dealing with the rising superpower.
"We will work with our allies and partners to shape the context in which China's rise is occurring; this is one of the pillars of my approach to China," he said.
The Yomiuri also asked Obama about the Japan-U.S. alliance and his thoughts on this year's 50th anniversary of the signing of the revised Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, the mainstay of the alliance.
Obama described the alliance as "the cornerstone of American strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific."
He said the United States "will maintain a strong and effective nuclear deterrent that guarantees the defense of our allies, including Japan," and expressed confidence "our relationship will flourish over the coming 50 years."
The U.S. president also said he wanted to deepen the bilateral alliance, saying, "I work closely with Prime Minister [Naoto] Kan on the challenges of upgrading and modernizing the U.S.-Japan alliance."
However, Obama did not address specific issues that have caused friction between Tokyo and Washington, most importantly the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.
Regarding the suspended six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, Obama said the nations involved are prepared to resume the negotiations "if North Korea will abide by the commitments it undertook in the 2005 Joint Statement and its international obligations under the U.N. Security Council Resolutions." In the joint statement, the reclusive state pledged to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. president did not provide a response to a question regarding the basic policy on trade recently adopted by the Japanese government, which calls for the commencement of consultations with the United States and other countries over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
(Nov. 12, 2010)