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U.S. calls for 'cool heads' regarding disputed Sea of Japan islands

By Kentaro Nakajima

McClatchy News Services


NEW YORK » U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed for cool heads in the Takeshima territorial dispute in a meeting in New York City Friday with the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea.

The meeting between Clinton, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kim Sung Hwan lasted for 45 minutes Friday.

Clinton was quoted as calling for "dialogue among our allies . . . to calm the waters, maintain cool heads" in the recent tension over conflicting claims to the tiny islets in Shimane Prefecture in the Sea of Japan

A senior U.S. State Department official said Clinton told the Japanese and South Korean ministers the United States believes territorial issues, including the one between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, should be solved "through direct dialogue among affected parties."

The ministerial-level meeting between the three countries was the first of its kind since South Korean President Lee Myung Bak visited Takeshima in August.

The State Department official said the meeting came at Clinton's request. This reflects the United States' desire to see strained Tokyo-Seoul relations repaired so cooperation between the three countries can continue on issues such as North Korea's nuclear weapons program, analysts said.

Prior to the meeting, Gemba met alone with Clinton for about 20 minutes.

Speaking about the Senkaku Islands, Gemba told Clinton, "Our country will never make any concessions (to China) in areas we don't feel we need to, but we will deal with the matter level-headedly, without losing sight of the broader future of Japan-China relations," an aide to the foreign minister said.

Clinton told Gemba that Japan should act as scrupulously as possible when dealing with China, saying she told the Chinese foreign minister in her meeting with him Thursday that China should act the same way in its dealings with Japan, the aide said.

Gemba also urged Clinton to ensure the United States continues to pay maximum attention to the safety of the U.S. marines' MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft, which is to be deployed to Okinawa Prefecture soon, the aide said.

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