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September 26, 2017

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US looks forward to 'cooler heads' in island row

WASHINGTON--The United States looked forward to "cooler heads" prevailing among claimants to the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

"In the current environment, we want cooler heads to prevail," said Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

His call came amid reports that China sent two patrol ships to the Tiaoyutais earlier Tuesday in a show of anger over the Japanese government's purchase of three islets in the disputed island cluster from their private owner.

Located some 100 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan, the uninhabited archipelago, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China, has been under Japanese administrative control since 1972, but it is also claimed by Taiwan and China.

Reaffirming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's commitment during her recent trip to Asia that the U.S. will not take any position on the Tiaoyutai sovereignty spat, Campbell said calm is critical at the moment because the Asia-Pacific region serves as a "cockpit of the global economy."

"The stakes could not be bigger. The desire is for all leaders to keep that in mind," Campbell said in his speech at the CSIS, a Washington based think tank, according to AFP.

"We believe that peaceful dialogue and the maintenance of peace and security is of utmost importance always but particularly now in this set of circumstances."

Apart from the latest Tiaoyutai flare-up, Asia has also been plagued by other territorial disputes, such as tensions over islets in the South China Sea and a bitter row between Japan and South Korea over islets in the Sea of Japan, which Koreans call the East Sea.

Clinton, speaking last Sunday at the end of an annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Vladivostok, Russia, warned that it was "not in the interest of the United States or the rest of the world to raise doubts and uncertainties about the stability and peace in the region."

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