Japan vows support for Philippines in China row

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged support for Philippine maritime forces on Saturday as both countries confront China in separate territorial disputes.

By (AP)

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Published: Sat 27 Jul 2013, 4:07 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 3:51 PM

Following a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III in the Philippine capital, Abe announced that Japan will provide a concessional loan to build 10 coast guard patrol boats for the Philippines.

The Philippines has already received two coast guard ships from the United States as it seeks to build a deterrent naval force after China took control of a disputed shoal off the northwestern Philippines last year, and more recently, established a presence farther south in the South China Sea.

China’s assertiveness to lay claim to most of the South China Sea after decades of relative calm has alarmed Manila, which has turned to the United Nations to seek international arbitration. Beijing has indicated it won’t cooperate.

In a statement issued after their meeting, Aquino said that the two leaders reviewed security challenges both countries face and promised to cooperate to push for “responsible action from international players,” in a reference to China.

He said that maritime cooperation with Japan was a pillar of the countries’ strategic partnership.

Abe said that a key element of Japan’s efforts to revive its economy and promote regional peace and security lies in closer relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, according to the statement.

ASEAN includes the Philippines and Vietnam, both of which have disputes with China in the South China Sea.

The meeting in Manila, which is the last leg of Abe’s three-day visit to Southeast Asian capitals, came after Japan scrambled jets on Wednesday to keep watch on a Chinese Y-8 early warning plane flying over international waters between Japan’s southern Okinawa island and an outer island relatively close to the disputed area in the East China Sea.

The Chinese Defense Ministry issued a statement defending the right of its aircraft to operate in the area.

Around the same time the Chinese fighter jet was sighted, Japan’s coast guard reported the appearance of four Chinese coast guard vessels near the disputed islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China.

On Friday, China said that ships from its newly formed coast guard confronted Japanese patrol vessels and “sternly declared” China’s sovereignty over the islands.

The uninhabited archipelago is controlled by Tokyo but also claimed by Beijing.

Chinese coast guard ships have also been spotted this week at Mischief Reef off the western Philippine coast, according to a confidential Philippine government report obtained by The Associated Press. China occupied the vast reef in 1995, sparking protests from rival claimant Manila.



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