Japan needs to step up to check China advance

The Japan News/ANN

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting three Southeast Asian countries and Australia. In the Philippines, Abe held talks with President Rodrigo Duterte two days in a row, during which they agreed to have closer cooperation over maritime security. The visiting prime minister also unveiled a plan to provide Manila with economic cooperation totaling 1 trillion yen (US$8.73 billion) over five years from public and private sources. Regarding a July ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that clearly denied Beijing’s claims of its sovereignty over the South China Sea, Duterte told Abe that he hopes to solve the issue peacefully based on international law. Abe emphasized that he will “call for the rule of law” at meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This year, the Philippines will serve as ASEAN chair, a position that plays an important role in facilitating meetings of leaders and ministers, in addition to coordinating the compilation of joint documents. It was significant for Abe to confirm bilateral cooperation with the country that assumes this role, considering the fact that some member countries, most notably Cambodia, take a pro-China stance.

During their meetings, Abe and Duterte confirmed Japan’s provision of 40-meter-long patrol boats to the Philippine Coast Guard and assistance in developing human resources.

Manila has already used one of the boats for patrol activities. The country’s improvement in its response capacity is important to keep China’s maritime advances in check.