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Territorial frays may ally Japan, Philippines
Both troubled by China conflicts
MANILA — The Philippines sought patrol ships and communications equipment from Japan to better secure its territory in meetings Thursday of their top diplomats, who expressed alarm over their countries’ territorial conflicts with China.
Tensions over the tiny islands intensified after Tokyo bought them from their Japanese private owners in September, prompting Chinese protesters to hold demonstrations and boycott Japanese products.
In addition to a long-unresolved dispute over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, China and the Philippines figured in a tense standoff last year over Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground, which sparked a heated exchange of words and strained relations.
Many have expressed fears that Asia’s territorial disputes could spark the region’s next armed conflict.
Mr. del Rosario said he and Mr. Kishida expressed “mutual concern” over the disputes and aggressive steps by China to assert its territorial claims. The two sides discussed the possibility of learning from each other’s strategies for dealing with the conflicts peacefully based on international law, he said.
“I think we all understand that the assertions being made by China in terms of their nine-dash line claim, for example … pose threats to the stability of the region,” Mr. del Rosario said, referring to an official Chinese map with broken lines that depict Beijing’s claim of virtually the entire South China Sea.
“I think the rule of law has to be maintained and enhanced,” she said in an interview.
Newly elected Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, Ms. Saiki said, “is determined to act very proactively as a responsible member of the international community to maintain and strengthen the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The Philippine request for coast guard “multi-role response vessels” and a communications system needs to be endorsed by Japan’s Foreign Ministry before being approved by the Japanese government.
Once approved, the first patrol vessels could be delivered as early as this year, Mr. del Rosario said.
The Philippines has one of Asia’s weakest militaries. It has turned to the United States, a defense treaty ally, and other countries to modernize its navy, air force and coast guard, and better secure its extensive coastlines and territorial waters, including potentially oil- and gas-rich areas in and near the South China Sea.
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