- Top commander sees Beijing’s expansion in East China Sea as part of global challenge
TOKYO — The U.S. is fully committed to help Tokyo handle China’s repeated incursions into waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands, the commander of American forces in Japan said Wednesday.
“The United States is 100% absolutely steadfast in its commitment to help the government of Japan with the situation,” Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in Japan, said in an online news conference. “That’s 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Chinese government vessels have sailed into the contiguous zone of the Japanese-administered Senkakus — an East China Sea island chain that Beijing claims as the Diaoyu — for more than 100 straight days. Schneider called the situation “unprecedented.”
Chinese ships usually “would go in and out a couple of times a month, and now we are seeing them basically park and truly challenge Japan’s administration,” he said.
“The duration of the incursions is beyond anything that we’ve seen in a long, long time,” he said.
Washington acknowledges that Japan administers the islands and has repeatedly said that the Senkaku Islands are covered by Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, which commits the U.S. to defend aggression against territories under Japanese administration.
But the U.S. has also said that it is neutral on the question of sovereignty, and for the most part has stayed away from the daily tensions between Japan and China in the waters.