U.S. Defense Department spokesman apologizes for recent Senkaku Islands sovereignty claim, reiterates U.S.-Japan security treaty commitment will not waver

U.S. Defense Department spokesman John Kirby has issued a public apology for a previously published statement that the U.S. supports Japan’s sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands) that was in error.

Major Japanese media outlets including Kyodo News, Sankei Shimbun and The Japan Times reported on Saturday (Feb. 27) the apology made by Kirby, the U.S. Pentagon spokesman, on Friday regarding the matter.

Kirby admitted that his statement on Tuesday (Feb. 23) regarding the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands was “wrong” and apologized for the confusion it caused.

Kirby reiterated that “U.S. policy on the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands has not changed.”

The U.S. government agrees that Japan has administrative jurisdiction over the Senkaku Islands, but has not explicitly stated that it agrees that Japan has sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands.

Kirby said, “I do regret my mistake.”

In a press conference Tuesday, Kirby said, “We share the view of the international community on the Senkaku Islands and the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, and we clearly support Japan’s position on this sovereignty issue.”

Kirby made the remarks in response to a question about the current state of the waters around the Senkaku Islands. Chinese maritime police vessels have been patrolling that disputed area recently, raising concerns about escalating tensions there.

China’s newly passed law specifies that Chinese maritime police ships can fire on foreign vessels that illegally enter Chinese waters.

Kirby said Friday that President Joe Biden and other administration officials assured Tokyo that the U.S. commitment to Japan’s defense position, including the Senkaku Islands, “will not waver” based on Article V of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

Kirby reiterated: “The United States opposes any action that seeks to unilaterally change the status quo.