Washington D.C. Thursday night in Washington, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved an amendment offered by Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to Japan under Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and to firmly counter any attempts to challenge Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands. Senators James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) cosponsored the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013.
“This amendment is a strong statement of support for a vital ally in Pacific Asia,” said Senator Webb. “Over the past several years, China has taken increasingly aggressive actions to assert its claim over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and in a broad expanse of the South China Sea. This amendment unequivocally states that the United States acknowledges the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands, and that this position will not be changed through threats, coercion, or military action.”
The amendment reiterated the U.S. national interest in freedom of navigation, peace and stability, respect for international law, and unimpeded lawful commerce. It also noted U.S. opposition to any efforts to coerce, threaten to use force, or use force to resolve territorial issues. The amendment concludes by reaffirming the commitment of the United States to the defense of territories under the administration of Japan, as stated in Article V of the Treaty.
Senator Webb has expressed concerns over maritime territorial disputes in this region for more than 16 years. His first hearing upon assuming chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee was on maritime territorial disputes in Asia in July 2009. He revisited this issue in the subcommittee in September 2012.
Senator Webb has worked and traveled throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia for more than four decades—as a Marine Corps Officer, a defense planner, a journalist, a novelist, a senior official in the Department of Defense, Secretary of the Navy, and as a business consultant.
The text of the amendment is as follows:
SEC. 1246. SENSE OF THE SENATE ON THE SITUATION IN THE SENKAKU ISLANDS.
It is the sense of the Senate that—
(1) the East China Sea is a vital part of the maritime commons of Asia, including critical sea lanes of communication and commerce that benefit all nations of the Asia-Pacific region;
(2) the peaceful settlement of territorial and jurisdictional disputes in the East China Sea requires the exercise of self-restraint by all parties in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and destabilize the region, and differences should be handled in a constructive manner consistent with universally recognized principles of customary international law;
(3) while the United States takes no position on the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku islands, the United States acknowledges the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands;
(4) the unilateral actions of a third party will not affect United States acknowledgement of the administration of Japan over the Senkaku Islands;
(5) the United States has national interests in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and unimpeded lawful commerce;
(6) the United States supports a collaborative diplomatic process by claimants to resolve territorial disputes without coercion, and opposes efforts at coercion, the threat of use of force, or use of force by any claimant in seeking to resolve sovereignty and territorial issues in the East China Sea; and
(7) the United States reaffirms its commitment to the Government of Japan under Article V of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security that “[e]ach Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes”.