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China: Japan's Abe sows discord, raises regional tension

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. Japan will provide Vietnam new patrol vessels, Abe said Monday on the last stop of his four-nation tour to boost his country's trade and security engagements in Asia amid China's rising dominance. Kham/Pool Photo via AP

MANILA, Philippines — Beijing called out Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following reports that he has been bringing up the South China Sea issue during his visits to the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that the South China Sea situation has improved due to joint efforts of China and relevant Southeast Asian countries.

"However, the Japanese leader is still going to extremes to sow discord and play up regional tension," Hua said in a press briefing.

"Such practice harbors ulterior motives and such mentality is extremely unhealthy," Hua added.

In his official visit to the Philippines last week, Abe and President Rodrigo Duterte affirmed the need to uphold the rule of law in resolving regional conflicts.

Both the Philippines and Japan are involved in maritime disputes with China, which is claiming the South China and an island in the East China Sea occupied by Tokyo.

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"The issue of the South China Sea is linked directly to regional peace and stability and is a concern to the entire international community," Abe said.

Abe also reportedly offered missiles to the Philippines but was rejected by Duterte.

READ: Abe pledges $8.7B in investments, speedboats to Philippines

"We also notice and appreciate that President Duterte has been committed to an independent foreign policy and developing friendly and cooperative relations with other countries based on equality and mutual respect since taking office," the Chinese Foreign Ministry official said.

Abe was in Australia last Saturday for talks with the nation's leader on trade and regional security issues amid China's growing military might in Asia.

The Japanese leader and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull said they had signed an upgraded defense agreement after talks in Sydney on trade and regional security issues.  The countries would enhance their coordination on activity in the disputed South China Sea and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

In Indonesia, Abe and President Joko Widodo "exchanged views on the development of the regional situation, including the South China Sea issue that has been a concern for the entire international community that will directly affect the peace and stability of the region."

Japan has also committed to provide Vietnam new patrol vessels to boost trade and security engagements in the region amid China's rising dominance.

Abe and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc called for the upholding of international law in resolving disputes in the South China Sea.

With the four-nation tour, Tokyo wants to send a message that its respect for a rules-based international system, in contrast to China's more aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, where it has vast territorial claims, makes it the best partner for Southeast Asian countries. — with reports from Associated Press

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