Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club, Wednesday, April 18, 2018, in Palm Beach, Fla.
AP, File
Japan, US call for demilitarization of South China Sea
Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) - April 20, 2018 - 3:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shared the same concern about China's militarization activities in the disputed South China Sea.

Following a special summit at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, the two leaders agreed that China and other claimant states should manage the disputes peacefully and in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

"President Trump and Prime Minister Abe underscored a joint commitment to safeguard unimpeded lawful commerce and respect for international law, including freedoms of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea," the White House said in a statement.

The American and Japanese heads of state called for the inclusion of legal and diplomatic processes, such as arbitration, in the ASEAN and China's negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

"Such diplomatic efforts should lead to demilitarization of disputed features and the maintenance of a peaceful and open South China Sea," the White House said.

The two leaders expressed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

"President Trump and Prime Minister Abe affirmed that infrastructure projects in the Indo-Pacific should be market-based, clean and transparent, responsibly financed, and feature open and fair access, social and environmental considerations, and standards of good governance," the statement read.

Washington remains committed in the Indo-Pacific, claiming that its strategy in the region would benefit all countries through partnership and engagement.

Earlier this month, US Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary Patrick Murphy said that the US would be going forward in the region as a longstanding partner.

"The primary objective of the US Indo-Pacific strategy is to ensure freedom of the seas and skies, to promote market-based economic support, good governance and liberty, and insulate sovereign nations from any external coercion," Murphy said in phone press briefing.

True to their commitment, the US, as well as Japan and Australia, will be participating in the upcoming Balikatan exercises with Filipino troops next month.

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