Sat Feb 4, 2017 11:1AM
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang (Photo by Xinhua)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang (Photo by Xinhua)

China has warned the US against destabilizing East Asia after its new Defense Secretary James Mattis said Washington would rush to defend Japan in case of a conflict with Beijing.

The remarks by China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Saturday came after Mattis stated during a two-day official tour of Japan that Senkaku islands fell within the scope of the US-Japan security treaty.

Under the treaty, Washington is obligated to defend all areas under Japanese administrative control, hence making Senkaku which China calls Diaoyu a bone of contention.

"The Diaoyu Island and its adjacent islets have been an inherent part of Chinese territory since ancient times, which is a unchangeable historical fact," state news agency Xinhua quoted Lu as saying.

"We urge the US side to take a responsible attitude, stop making wrong remarks... and avoid making the issue more complicated and bringing instability to the regional situation," he added.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis attends an honor guard ceremony with his South Korean counterpart Han Min-koo at the Defense Ministry in Seoul on February 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

During the visit to Japan, Mattis said, "I made clear that our long-standing policy on the Senkaku Islands stands -- the US will continue to recognize Japanese administration of the islands."

Lu insisted that the US-Japan treaty was a product of the Cold War, and should not affect China's territorial sovereignty, according to the Xinhua’s report.

China cites historical records for its claim, and Japan's move to nationalize several of the islands in 2012 set off anti-Japanese protests across China. The decision prompted the Chinese government to dispatch warships and aircraft to the area as a challenge to Japanese control.

In addition to the new tension over the islands and the South China Sea, China has also slammed a recent pact to deploy a US missile system known as THAAD in South Korea later in the year.

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China says the system may disturb the regional balance of power amid Washington's claims that its only objective is to counter what it regards as the North Korea missile threat.

“We have resolute opposition to the deployment of Thaad to South Korea by the US and (South Korea),” Lu said in a statement.

“Such actions,” he added, “will jeopardize security and the strategic interests of regional countries, including China, and undermine the strategic balance in the region.”

Beijing further warned Washington to stop using the Dalai Lama to create trouble for China, saying it would bring no benefit to the US but damage Sino-US ties instead. 

China says the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, is a violent separatist.

The warning by Chinese official in charge of Tibet affairs, Zhu Weiqun, came after the newly appointed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he would receive and meet the Dalai Lama.

Tillerson's position shows he is a "complete amateur" on Tibet-related questions, Zhu told the Global Times which is published by the ruling Communist Party.

The US maintains 28,500 military service members in South Korean and 47,000 in Japan, mostly on the southern island of Okinawa, where Mattis served as a young marine officer in the early 1970s, according to wire reports.