U.S.

TOKYO – When the U.S. Defense Secretary arrives in Asia this weekend, his biggest challenge may not be convincing China that America will give its full support to longtime ally Japan in the escalating dispute over islands in the East China Sea.  His biggest challenge may be convincing Japan.

“There is a perception in Japan that the U.S. commitment is ambiguous,” says Yoichiro Sato, director of international strategic studies at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in southern Japan. “If China thinks Japan will hesitate to respond or that America will hesitate, that will embolden the Chinese. It’s better that America sends a clear, explicit message now than have to respond to something worse later.”

On Friday, a group of six Chinese marine-surveillance ships entered territorial waters around the remote Senkaku Islands, which are claimed and administered by Japan as sovereign territory. It was the latest and most serious escalation in the…

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