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Japan's top diplomat seeks stronger ties with Manila

Publication Date : 11-01-2013


Japan vowed to enhance maritime security cooperation with the Philippines and develop stronger ties as Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida yesterday began his first foreign trip to Manila since his country's election last month.

Speaking after a meeting with his Philippine counterpart, Albert del Rosario, Kishida said the two agreed on "strengthening policy dialogue, enhancing maritime cooperation and other measures".

In his first overseas trip as top diplomat since being appointed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kishida said such cooperation was dictated by major changes in the region's security equation, though he did not elaborate.

"As the strategic environment is changing, it is necessary for us as foreign ministers to share recognition of the situation, enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries and cooperate toward shaping a peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region," Kishida was quoted by Kyodo News as saying.

Kishida said the Japanese government will continue to help Manila strengthen the capacity of its coast guard through human resource development and providing communications equipment for maritime safety, including the possible purchase of multi-purpose vessels.

"The acquisition of multi-role response vessels is undergoing serious consideration," del Rosario said. Talks also under way to improve Manila's communications equipment and personnel training.

The Philippines wants to acquire 10 new loan-funded patrol boats from Japan, after buying two refurbished coast guard vessels from the United States, Manila's major military ally, AFP reported. Observers warned that Japan's meddling in the region will not help stabilise but only further complicate the situation.

"The current disputes over islands in the South China Sea should be resolved on a bilateral basis between China and related countries," said Huo Jiangang, an expert on Japanese studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Yang Bojiang, a scholar on Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Abe's strategy is to consolidate a multilateral containment framework by enhancing ties with nations surrounding China. Japan is the Philippines' biggest trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to more than US$13 billion in 2012.

Kishida also announced Japan will extend low-interest loans for infrastructure development, including the construction of a new airport terminal, and the extension of the light-rail transit system in Metro Manila.


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