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PH, Japan boost ties

Aquino, Abe also agree on code to ease sea tension President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Saturday to strengthen bilateral maritime cooperation, describing it as “a pillar of their strategic partnership.”
Strategic partners. President Aquino receives Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Music Room of the Malacañan Palace during his official visit  on Saturday (July 27, 2013).  Malacañang Photo Bureau Strategic partners. President Aquino receives Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Music Room of the Malacañan Palace during his official visit on Saturday (July 27, 2013). Malacañang Photo Bureau
In a statement released after the meeting in Malacanang, Aquino said that he and Abe reviewed the security challenges that confront both nations. Aquino was referring to China’s aggressive claim on the islands in the West Philippine Sea, which had strained relations between Beijing and Manila, and Tokyo’s own territorial dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea. China’s aggressive claims on both sides of the China Sea had forced Washington to “re-pivot” its focus on the Asia-Pacific region. In recent months, the United States had redoubled its efforts to confront China’s growing maritime presence in the region, as US Vice President Joe Biden called on Asian nations to reduce tensions by rejecting “bellicose threats.” Biden, who is in a two-day visit to Singapore where he met Abe briefly and later Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, also urged claimant-countries to agree on rules to prevent conflict. “We each expressed our concern about the rising tensions in the South China Sea,” Biden said. “The United States urges all parties to reject coercion, intimidation and threats to the use of force,” he said. “We encourage the ASEAN and China to quickly reach agreement on a code of conduct,” he added. In Manila, Aquino thanked the Japanese government for helping enhance the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard by building multi- role vessels and by providing communications systems for their use. Aquino added that both countries have “pledged to cooperate in advancing its common advocacy for responsible action from international players” through “upholding the rule of law”. Aquino also expressed gratitude for Japan’s continuous support to the peace process between his government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, and for extending assistance in critical areas, such as infrastructure development, transportation, connectivity, and disaster preparedness and response. Aquino said that he was looking forwards to the Commemorative Summit in Tokyo in December for the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship Cooperation. In a separate statement, Abe announced four initiatives for the Philippines, including joint development of the economy, promote maritime cooperation, strengthening assistance to southern Philippines, and strong promotion of people to people exchanges. He confirmed Japan’s assistance to the PCG by providing loan for the acquisition of 10 coast guard vessels. He also presented Aquino a very accurate topographical map of Mindanao which he said could be beneficial in developing the area. Abe arrived in Manila Friday night for a two-day official visit, the final stop of his three-nation Southeast Asian tour which also took him to Singapore and Malaysia. “{The) Philippines will continue to be a trusted, important partner immediately after the start of the Abe administration. Foreign Minister Kishida visited the Philippines and I am also visiting the Philippines now which indicate our view towards the Philippines. Going forward, I want to strengthen the relationship with the Philippines in all areas including politics, security, economy, and people-to-people exchange,” Abe told reporters after the meeting. He vowed that Japan would continue to assist the Philippines towards its “capacity building.” “Japan and the Philippines as neighbors connected by the sea, developed a long history of friendship. Both countries share a strategic interest of making the Asia Pacific region a free and open region not by coercion or intimidation but by the rule of law,” he said. Abe said during his meeting with Biden in Singapore, they agreed that Japan and the US would continue to “contribute peace in the region”. “The relationship between Japan and Asean serves as a cornerstone of harmony and dialogue in our part of the world,” he said. With PNA
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