President Obama publicly affirmed long-standing U.S. policy that the bilateral security treaty applies to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands.
During his trip to Japan in April last year, President Obama publicly affirmed long-standing U.S. policy that the bilateral security treaty applies to the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands. China claims sovereignty over the islands and, in recent years, has tried to intimidate Japan—much as Beijing has bullied the Philippines in pursuit of its extralegal territorial claims in the South China Sea.
President Obama’s statement was a welcome and proper confirmation of U.S. support for a critical Pacific ally.
During a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Obama declared, “let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute, and Article 5 [of the bilateral security treaty] covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands.”
While this was the first time Obama publicly affirmed the parameters of the U.S. defense commitment to Japan, it is consistent with the long-standing policies of his predecessors. As Obama pointed out, “this isn’t a ‘red line’ that I’m drawing; it is the standard interpretation over multiple administrations of the terms of the alliance…There’s no shift in position. There’s no “red line” that’s been drawn. We’re simply applying the treaty.”
In 2004, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage stated that the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty “would require any attack on Japan, or the administrative territories under Japanese control, to be seen as an attack on the United States.”