Japan and Vietnam join hands over disputed South China Sea

Prime ministers agree to work together for peace, security and free trade in the Indo-Pacific region

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2018, 3:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2018, 10:35pm

Japan and Vietnam have agreed to work together to maintain peace and security in the South China Sea, where Hanoi and other countries are engaged in a territorial dispute with Beijing.

Japan does not face the South China Sea but views the vital shipping lane, where Beijing has built artificial islands with military infrastructure, as strategically important.

The Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc met in Abe’s Tokyo office on Monday where they also confirmed their readiness to promote free and fair trade through regional trade agreements, including the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership, despite the spreading trend of protectionism.

Abe said, “going hand-in-hand with Prime Minister Phuc”, he was “determined to realise the free and open Indo-Pacific region”, which covers the South China Sea.

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Phuc refrained from naming China, but said he and Abe had confirmed the need to ensure peace, maritime security and freedom of navigation in, and flying above, the South China Sea.

“I welcome and support Japan’s efforts and initiative to secure economic prosperity, freedom of trade and safety of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

Phuc is in Tokyo for the Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting, which will also bring together the leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand on Tuesday.

With this year marking the 45th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties between Japan and Vietnam, Abe pledged to promote people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. Japan is preparing to boost foreign workers through the introduction of a new residence status from April next year.

Japan also promised up to 1.2 billion yen (US$11 million) in grant aid to procure equipment to check food safety in Vietnam in an attempt to help expand the country’s food exports.

Abe expressed Japan’s condolences for the deaths of Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in September and former Vietnamese Communist Party general secretary Do Muoi earlier this month.