U.S. Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said Friday his recent remarks supporting Tokyo's claims over the sovereignty of the Japanese-controlled, China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea were an "error" and apologized for any confusion.

"There is no change to U.S. policy regarding the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands," the press secretary said, apparently referring to Washington's position of neutrality over who has sovereignty over the uninhabited islets.

"I do regret my error," he added.

File photo taken in September 2012 shows the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Kirby said Tuesday during an off-camera press briefing, "We hold with the international community about the Senkakus and the sovereignty of the Senkakus, and we support Japan obviously in that sovereignty."

He was responding to questions on the situation in the waters near the islets, where concerns are growing over an escalation of tensions as Chinese coast guard vessels have been spotted following the recent implementation of Beijing's controversial coast guard law.

The law explicitly allows the Chinese coast guard to use weapons against foreign ships it sees as illegally entering China's waters. Kirby said Friday that U.S. President Joe Biden and other administration officials have offered reassurances to Tokyo regarding the country's "unwavering" commitment to the defense of Japan under Article 5 of the bilateral security treaty, which includes the Senkakus.

"The United States opposes any unilateral action that seeks to change the status quo," he said.