US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted Friday that Asian nations have "a responsibility" to lower tensions amid a heated war of words between regional powers over disputed island chains.
As the row was plastered in ads across US newspapers, Clinton opened three-way talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan and Koichiro Gemba of Japan to discuss regional tensions.
"Our three nations share a strong interest in the peaceful, verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We will discuss today what further steps we can take toward that goal," the top US diplomat said.
"We will also discuss how every nation in the region has a responsibility to work to resolve disputes peacefully, lower tensions, promote regional security and stability."
In a separate bilateral meeting with Gemba, Clinton also urged Tokyo to "move carefully, deliberately and effectively in its bilateral diplomacy with China."
The United States has watched with increasing concern a series of spats between China and other Asian nations over access to the South China Sea, and disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku in Japanese.
China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi sparked angry exchanges with Japanese diplomats at the UN by accusing Japan of stealing the islands.
On Friday, the tussle over ownership of the islands spilled over into America's newspapers, as the China Daily newspaper took out a double-page ad about the dispute.
A centerfold display in The New York Times -- among the most expensive real estate in all of journalism -- was devoted to the standoff, which has heightened bilateral tensions and reopened old wounds over World War II.
"Diaoyu Islands... have been an inherent territory of China since ancient times, and China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands," read the text.
The ad pressed Beijing's position that Japan had "grabbed" the islands and that they are the rightful property of China.
The Japanese government's purchase of the uninhabited islands from a private owner this month has infuriated Beijing and set off violent protests in several Chinese cities. Chinese boats had also at one point moved in close to the archipelago.
A senior State Department official said Clinton had again "underscored that the US has no intention in any of these disputes to play a mediating role."
"We believe that bilateral relations are strong enough, that China-ASEAN relations are strong enough for these issues to be resolved and tensions to be cooled through direct dialogue among effective parties," the official added.
Clinton also stressed "our alliances with Japan and South Korea are the cornerstones of peace and prosperity in the region."
The three allies discussed the stalled six-party talks aimed at persuading North Korea to end its suspect nuclear program.
New North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's regime said it would suspend nuclear and missile tests along with uranium enrichment under a February 29 deal with the United States in return for badly needed food assistance.
But the agreement quickly collapsed after Pyongyang launched a rocket on April 13 in what US officials say was a disguised, albeit unsuccessful, missile test.
"We are watching developments in North Korea closely, monitoring them," the senior State Department official said, adding that the special representative for North Korean policy, Glyn Davies, would return to the region for talks later in October.
"The mood in the room was very much to remain unified, to deter any provocative actions, but also to watch closely what the new leader does. But I don't think anyone has drawn any conclusions at this stage," the official added.