Japan pledges to help Philippines; Beijing reacts

AFP and REUTERS, MANILA and Beijing

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - Page 1

Japan yesterday pledged to help the Philippines defend its “remote islands,” as both governments expressed concern over China’s robust moves to stake its claims to disputed Asian waters.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said China’s contentious claim to nearly all of the South China Sea and its territorial dispute with Japan in the East China Sea were discussed during top-level talks in Manila.

“We agreed that we will further co-operate in terms of the defense of remote islands ... the defense of territorial seas as well as protection of maritime interests,” Onodera told a joint news conference.

“We face a very similar situation in the East China Sea of Japan. The Japan side is very concerned that this kind of situation in the South China Sea could affect the situation in the East China Sea,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.

Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin welcomed Japan’s offer of support for its poorly resourced military.

“We have agreed to continue our exchanges of information, exchanges of technology to help each other to make our defense relations stronger,” Gazmin said.

Onodera and Gazmin welcomed an increased military presence in Asia by their mutual ally, the US.

Onodera said Japan was intent on avoiding conflict with China.

“I would also like to emphasize that the current situation should not be changed with the use of force, but should be done through the rule of law,” Onodera said.

Meanwhile, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) yesterday said countries with territorial claims in the South China Sea that look for help from third parties will find their efforts “futile,” adding that the path of confrontation would be “doomed.”

Beijing’s assertion of sovereign-ty over a vast stretch of the South China Sea has set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia also lay claim to other parts of the sea, making it Asia’s biggest potential military troublespot.

At stake are potentially massive offshore oil reserves. The seas also lie on shipping lanes and fishing grounds.

Wang did not name any third countries, but the US is a close ally of Taiwan and the Philippines, and has good or improving relations with the other nations laying claim to all or part of the South China Sea.

“If certain claimant countries choose confrontation, that path will be doomed,” Wang said after a speech at the annual Tsinghua World Peace Forum. “If such countries try to reinforce their poorly grounded claims through the help of external forces, that will be futile and will eventually prove to be a strategic miscalculation not worth the effort.”