MANILA, Philippines - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives in Manila tonight for a two-day visit, with China viewing his three-nation Southeast Asian trip as the manifestation of a desire to build a maritime alliance with certain countries in the region to contain Beijing.
Kyodo News reported that Japanese officials disclosed that Abe and President Aquino are expected to confirm Tokyo’s plans to supply patrol ships to Manila as part of efforts to beef up the Philippines’ coast guard during their meeting tomorrow.
Last year, Manila asked Tokyo for 10 such patrol ships.
China has increasingly become assertive in the maritime disputes in the region.
The Philippines and China are at odds over areas in the West Philippine Sea while Japan and China are fighting over the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.
During his visit, Abe will also discuss with Aquino bilateral cooperation and regional issues, and further advance the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan.
A report in the China Daily, a state-owned news agency, said Abe headed to Southeast Asia yesterday for the third time this year, seen as an effort to contain China.
Abe embarks on his three-nation trip to the Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore just days after his Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner New Komeito regained control of the upper house of Japan’s parliament or Diet.
The Japanese prime minister’s sojourn to the three Southeast Asian nations aims to strengthen security and economic ties between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The last time that the prime minister of Japan visited the Philippines was in December 2006 when Abe visited Manila during his first term as the head of the Japanese government.
Japan is one of only two strategic partners of the Philippines. In 2012, Japan was the Philippines’ number one trade partner and provider of official development assistance, as well as the second major source of approved investments and third source of tourist arrivals.
Abe manifested in May the Japanese government’s support for the Philippines’ initiation of arbitral proceedings in its bid to clarify maritime zones and entitlements in the South China Sea.
Japan also pledged its continued support towards the Philippines’ capability-building plan regarding maritime security.
The further strengthening of the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan based on shared values took center stage at Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario’s courtesy call on Abe at the Kantei (Prime Minister’s Office) in Tokyo.
Abe and Del Rosario discussed the regional situation and the particular maritime security challenges confronted in common by the Philippines and Japan, being two important island nations in the Asia-Pacific. They noted the Philippines’ and Japan’s shared advocacy in promoting the rule of law.
Del Rosario expressed the Philippines’ appreciation for Japan’s stance, stressing the crucial role of international law in attaining a durable resolution to international disputes based on a level playing field.
The secretary also briefed Abe on the Philippines’ parallel pursuit of diplomatic and political avenues in order to address maritime concerns.
Aquino will meet Abe tomorrow in Malacañang to talk about various levels of exchanges between the two countries and their strategic partnership.
In a press briefing yesterday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda refused to reveal the specific agenda of the meeting, including the possibility of the two leaders raising maritime disputes with China. With Aurea Calica, AP