WASHINGTON — The United States called for calm between Japan and China after Beijing sent ships to disputed islands in the East China Sea in response to Tokyo’s purchase of them.
“We think, in the current environment, we want cooler heads to prevail, frankly,” Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said on Tuesday.
Campbell, echoing remarks this weekend by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the end of a tour of Asia, said that calm was critical because the region serves as a “cockpit of the global economy.”
“The stakes could not be bigger,” Campbell said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.
“We believe that peaceful dialogue and the maintenance of peace and security is of utmost importance always but particularly now in this set of circumstances,” Campbell said.
In line with repeated US statements, Campbell said that Washington did not take positions on the various and increasingly bitter territorial disputes around Asia.
China said that it was dispatching two marine surveillance ships to “assert its sovereignty” over the islands in the East China Sea known in Chinese as the Diaoyu and in Japan as the Senkaku islands.
The move came after Japan said it would nationalize the islands through a purchase from private Japanese landowners. The islands lie near potentially lucrative mineral resources and are strategically close to the Taiwan Strait.
Asia has been riveted by a series of disputes including tensions in the South China Sea and a flareup between US allies Japan and South Korea over islets in the Sea of Japan, which Koreans call the East Sea.
Clinton, speaking Sunday at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vladivostok, Russia, said that she urged Japan and South Korea to “lower the temperature and work together.”
More broadly in Asia, Clinton warned that it was “not in the interest of the United States or the rest of the world to raise doubts and uncertainties about the stability and peace in the region.”