Oct 25, 2012

USA - US diplomat heads to Tokyo, Seoul amid security concerns

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US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell is expected to visit Tokyo today and Seoul later this week, following a series of recent visits by high-ranking US officials to East Asia, where security uncertainties have raised concerns.

Recent developments on the Korean Peninsula and the territorial row between China and Japan - a close ally of the US in this region - over the East China Sea's islands dispute will be on top of Campbell's agenda, analysts said.

The visit comes after the fourth Asia-Pacific consultation between China and the US, which was held on Tuesday in San Francisco and co-chaired by Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai and Campbell, the US government official in charge of East Asian and Pacific affairs.

The two sides exchanged views on Sino-US relations, the situation in Asia-Pacific region, the two countries' interaction in this area and how to promote regional cooperation, according to a statement on the website of Foreign Ministry.

The two sides vowed to commit to the success of the East Asia Summit, which will be held in Cambodia next month, according to the statement.

"Visiting Japan and South Korea after talks with China is a regular practice for the US, as it has to inform its allies about the latest developments with China, a key player in the region," said Da Wei, an expert on American studies with China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

US-Japan bilateral issues and their coordination on regional and global issues will be discussed when Campbell meets with Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai and other senior officials today and tomorrow, according to a statement on the website of the US Department of State.

The North Korea issue will be included in Campbell's talks with South Korean officials tomorrow and Saturday, it said.

Campbell's visit follows a semi-official visit to Japan and China by a group of former US national security officials earlier this week, and US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns' visit to five Asian countries, including China and Japan, earlier this month.

"These visits are good policy instruments, with low costs, for the US to increase its intervention in this region and mould the situation in the Asia-Pacific in the way it wishes," Da said.

The US will try to keep South Korea from making provoking moves toward North Korea for the sake of stability on the Korean Peninsula, at least before the US presidential election on November 6 and South Korea election in December, Da said.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula remain high. On Monday, South Korea's anti-Pyongyang activists managed to launch balloons carrying 120,000 propaganda leaflets criticising Pyongyang's political system at the border between South Korea and North Korea.

There has not been any reaction from North Korea, but it had threatened a "merciless military strike".

Paralleling the troubled situation on the Korean Peninsula in this region is the strained relationship between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands (known in Japan as Senkaku).

The issue is sure to be discussed between Campbell and Japanese officials, said Da, adding that the US' aim is to have the conflict develop in a way that the US can benefit from it.
China-Japan relations soured after Japan illegally "purchased" part of China's Diaoyu Islands in September.

Statistics show that Japan's investment in China and bilateral trade suffered a slowdown in September.

Yuan Peng, director of the Institute of American Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the US has made progress in its "pivot to Asia" strategy by enhancing its military deployment in this region and blocking the trade integration of East Asia.

"The US actually hopes the conflict will continue, but in a way in which it will not lose control," Yuan said.

Cheng Guangjin/Zhou Wa

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