Obama: Senkaku Islands Fall Under US-Japan Defense Treaty
President Barack Obama has reaffirmed the U.S. treaty commitment to defend Japan, including a group of East China Sea islands claimed by both Tokyo and Beijing.
Following a Thursday meeting in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mr. Obama explicitly stated the Senkaku Islands fall under the treaty obliging the United States to defend Japan if attacked.
Mr. Obama stressed the U.S. does not take a position on the sovereignty of the islands, known in China as Diaoyu. But he warned against any unilateral move to change their status quo.
It is the strongest recent statement of support for Japan by a U.S. president regarding the island dispute, which has seriously damaged relations between Japan and China.
Responding to the remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said nothing will change "the basic reality that the Diaoyu Islands are China's inherent territory."
Japan is the first stop on Mr. Obama's eight-day tour of Asia, which also includes visits in South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Ukraine: Police Take Back a City Hall from Separatists, Army Repels Attack on Base
Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov says police have driven pro-Russian separatists out of the city hall in the eastern city of Mariupol.
Avakov said in a Facebook post Thursday that city officials are free to return to work. He gave no details how the building was retaken, but reported no casualties.
The government also says Ukrainian forces repelled an attack by armed separatists on an army base in the town of Artemivsk. One soldier was wounded.
Ukraine says it is re-launching what it calls "anti-terrorist" operations against armed pro-Russians who have taken over government buildings in about a dozen eastern cities. The separatists are demanding the right to vote on whether to split with Ukraine and join Russia.
U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters Thursday in Tokyo, Japan, said Russia is not abiding by the Geneva agreement to ease the crisis in Ukraine and says he is not hopeful the Russians will cooperate.
He said Russia has chosen not to take the "wise path" and faces stronger sanctions, while he says Ukraine has been taking the concrete steps agreed to last week in Geneva. That includes offering amnesty to pro-Russian separatists who leave the buildings peacefully.