Jiji Press WASHINGTON (Jiji Press) — U.S. Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson expressed intention Wednesday to defend the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands against Chinese aggression, if any, based on the Japan-U.S. security treaty.
“We have longstanding ally commitments with Japan and South Korea in the area, and I think we would respond in accordance with those [security] accords,” Tillerson, former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief executive, told his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Tillerson was answering a question from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., about how he will respond if China attempts to take over the East China Sea island chain through the use of force.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has affirmed that the security treaty covers the Senkaku Islands as well as other parts of Japanese territory. But President-elect Donald Trump has suggested the possibility of downgrading the commitment, saying U.S. forces would be pulled out of Japan unless the country spends more to host the forces.
By reconfirming U.S. obligations under the treaty to defend Japan, including the small islands, Tillerson tried to wipe out Japan’s concerns about its alliance with the United States under the Trump administration, pundits pointed out.
On China’s militarization of the South China Sea through building islands, Tillerson noted that the United States has to “send China a clear signal” that the construction of the artificial islands should stop and that no access should be allowed to the islands.