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McCain Angers China Over Disputed Islands

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Comments made by Sen. John McCain in Japan Wednesday have drawn a rebuke from the Chinese government.

During a news conference Wednesday, the globe-trotting Arizona Republican called a collection of small islands in the East China Sea that Japan refers to as the Senkaku Islands “Japanese territory.”

“The Congress in the United States resolution last year said the [Senkakus are] Japanese territory. That is our position as a Congress and as a government. I will continue to repeat that when I go to China,” McCain said, according to the Japan Times.

The territory is disputed between Japan and China, and McCain’s comments drew criticism from the Chinese government. China refers to the same area as the Diaoyu Islands.

“We urge the U.S. lawmaker to stop making irresponsible remarks and avoid further complicating related issues and the regional situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told the state-owned China Daily.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday that the official U.S. position remains the same, avoiding a specific stance on the territorial dispute.

“I don’t have anything specific on his remarks, other than to just reiterate that our policy on the Senkaku Islands is longstanding and has not changed,” Psaki said. “The United States does not take a position on the underlying question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, and that remains the U.S. government position.”

Shortly before the August recess, the Senate adopted a resolution offered by Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., that said in part:

Whereas although the United States does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, the United States Government acknowledges that they are under the administration of Japan and opposes any unilateral actions that would seek to undermine such administration, affirms that the unilateral actions of a third party will not affect the United States acknowledgment of the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands, remains committed under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security to respond to any armed attack in the territories under the administration of Japan, and has urged all parties to take steps to prevent incidents and manage disagreements through peaceful means.