U.S. ‘uncomfortable’ on Japan-Korea Dokdo spat

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U.S. ‘uncomfortable’ on Japan-Korea Dokdo spat


WASHINGTON - After weeks of routine and neutral statements, the U.S. government expressed thinly veiled displeasure Thursday over a continued territorial stand-off between its top Asian allies - Korea and Japan.

“Both of these countries are strong, important, valued allies of the United States,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

“It’s obviously not comfortable for us when they have a dispute between them. So our message to each of them is the same: Work this out; work it out peacefully; work it out through consultations.”

Korea has sent back a protest letter from the Japanese prime minister to President Lee Myung-bak over Lee’s visit to the easternmost Korean islets of Dokdo, which are claimed by Tokyo.

Such an unusual exchange represents a sharp diplomatic conflict between the neighboring nations.

Japan has also decided to push toraise the Dokdo issue at the International Court of Justice and possibly also at the United Nations General Assembly. Korea, however, opposes discussing its “indisputable ownership” of Dokdo on the global stage.

Nuland refused to clarify whether the United States supports Japan’s move.

“What we want is a resolution between the two countries,” she said.

She also dismissed suspicions that the United States has a double standard on the territorial issue between Seoul and Tokyo and another between Tokyo and China. America is seen as taking the side of Japan in its spat with China over disputed islands known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. Japan has effective control of those islands, unlike Dokdo.

“Well, on the Senkaku issue, as you know, we don’t take any position on that one, either, except to say that we want that one resolved peacefully as well,” she said. “So I’m not sure what you’re seeing as inconsistency here.”

Nuland added that Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at Japan’s Foreign Ministry, brought up the issue of Tokyo’s territorial row with Seoul in a Wednesday meeting here with his American counterpart, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell.

“Our side said what we always say, publicly and privately, that we want to see the two countries work it out together,” she said.

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