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The online news portal of TV5
TOKYO – Visiting President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday firmed up a joint declaration aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries for the exchange of defense hardware as well as the conduct of joint-training activities.
The move, said the two leaders, is aimed partly at ensuring “maritime safety and security” in the disputed South China Sea.
Leaders of the two countries lashed out Thursday at Chinese land reclamation activities in the South China Sea, where Beijing is building infrastructure suspected by observers will be used by its military.
“Both countries reaffirm their strong commitment to ensuring maritime safety and security, including in the South China Sea, which is a vital element for peace and prosperity of the region,” the joint statement issued by Aquino and Abe said.
They “share serious concern on unilateral actions to change the status quo in the South China Sea including large-scale land reclamation and building of outposts” in violation of a 2002 regional agreement, it said.
Aquino has passionately courted Japan, along with the United States, to help serve as a counterbalance to China’s claims to almost the entirety of the sea, through which a huge chunk of global shipping passes, and which could harbor oil and gas reserves.
Parts of the sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
The statement called for “peaceful settlement” of disputes, based on the law.
The two men agreed ties between Tokyo and Manila “have reached an excellent stage today” and announced an agreement to start negotiations over the transfer of defense technology and equipment. This reportedly includes surveillance planes and radar kit.
Japan will also help boost the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard, they said, the front line in Manila’s pushback against China, whose territorial ambitions Aquino believes needs to be checked.
On Wednesday he sparked ire in Beijing by comparing it with Nazi Germany in the run-up to World War II.
“If somebody said ‘stop’ to (Adolf) Hitler at that point in time, or to Germany at that time, would we have avoided World War II?” he said in a speech to business leaders.
Tokyo and Manila are shoring up military and political ties, with a joint naval drill last month in the South China Sea. Washington has also sent ships and planes to survey the waters.
Abe has long criticized China’s attempts to change the status quo by force, mindful of Japan’s own territorial dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea that are the destination for Chinese boats and planes.
While ties between Tokyo and Beijing have warmed a little in recent months, including direct talks between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, relations have been icy for years.
Repeated demands for Tokyo to atone for its wartime aggression have irritated the Japanese public, which increasingly believes Beijing is using history as fuel for its nationalist fire and to bolster the ruling Communist Party’s domestic standing.
In contrast, ties between Japan and the Philippines are warm, with Aquino having spoken of Japan’s repentance and praised its decades of pacifism since defeat in World War II.
Japan’s Emperor Akihito told Aquino on Wednesday his country feels “remorse” for its actions during the war.
“During World War II… fierce battles between Japan and the United States took place on Philippine soil, resulting in the loss of many Filipino lives,” he said.
“This is something we Japanese must long remember with a profound sense of remorse,” he said