Shinzo Abe is president of the Liberal Democratic Party and was elected prime minister of Japan in December 2012. He also served as prime minister in 2006 after being elected by a special session of Japan’s National Diet, but resigned after less than a year.
Shinzo Abe stresses Japan's right to self-defence during Manila visit
Prime minister discusses regional security with Manila, stressing Japan's right to self defence
Raissa Robles in Manila
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to help strengthen the Philippines' maritime defence capabilities yesterday.
He also underscored the importance of dialogue between Tokyo and Beijing, but said problems are inevitable between neighbours.
And he said he would make it a point to explain to the leaders of Southeast Asian nations Japan's peaceful intentions.
"The Japan-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships. Since we are neighbours, it is inevitable that we have various problems," Abe said in a news conference following his meeting with President Benigno Aquino.
"We should be aware of this," he said, speaking in Japanese. "And it is crucial that a joint effort be made [for] frank and creative discussions. It is a mutually beneficial relationship based on a common strategic interest."
He disclosed that in his meeting with US Vice-president Joseph Biden on Friday in Singapore, they discussed rising tensions over the Senkaku islands, which China calls the Diaoyus.
In their discussion, he said Biden "has made his point, not to escalate the situation".
Abe confirmed that Japan would provide the Philippines 10 cutters for its coastguard. "For Japan, the Philippines is a strategic partner with whom we share fundamental values and many strategic interests," he said.
Aquino said that in their meeting in Malacanang Palace the two leaders "reviewed the security challenges that confront our nations".
Abe indicated he would push for a review of Japan's constitution, which currently limits Japan's military to a self-defence role and bars Japan from pre-emptive strikes.
The end goal was "mutual peace and stability" in the region as well as the "exercise of our right of collective self-defence", Abe said.
"Japan, together with the US, has been greatly contributing to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and we intend to continue to play that role."
News of Japan's planned military expansion did not sit well with a Philippine NGO.
Rechilda Extremadura, executive director of support group Lila Pilipina, said while Japan was in talks with Manila for "military basing privileges" they "never apologised for abusing Filipino women during the second world war". "So what's next, a new generation of 'comfort women'?" Extremadura asked, referring to women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during the second world war.