If tasked, U.S. to retake Senkakus from China: top Marine in Japan

If the Chinese invaded the Senkaku Islands, U.S. Marines in the Pacific could recapture them, the commander of Marines in Japan said Friday.

"It's a very, very small collection of small islands," the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes quoted Lt. Gen. John Wissler as saying at a breakfast with defense reporters in Washington.

"You wouldn't maybe even necessarily have to put somebody on that island until you had eliminated the threat, so to speak. And that's where that whole integration of our full capabilities as a Navy-Marine Corps team would be of value," Wissler said.

The Senkakus have been administered by Japan for decades, but China claims sovereignty over them.

On Tuesday in Beijing, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan that the U.S.-Japan security treaty applies to the Senkakus.

China has repeatedly sent ships into Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus to assert its claim to the uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.