A top US diplomat claimed Thursday that the Senkaku Islands fall “clearly” under the scope of the 1960 US-Japan security treaty, Kyodo reports.

Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, speaking at the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that under the Article 5 of the treaty, Washington is bound to defend Japan in the event of armed attacks. Campbell went on to urge for a diplomatic settlement of the territorial dispute between China and Japan before it seriously damages peace and stability in the region, in an echo of US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s warning.

Campbell reiterated that Washington does “not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of these islands”.

“It is not our strategic interests and it would clearly undermine peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific as a whole,” he added. Mr. Panetta, who met with Chinese presidential successor Xi Jinping in Beijing, said that the US wants to “play a positive role” in helping to settle the dispute.