Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged yesterday to support Viet Nam and the Philippines in their territorial disputes with China, saying the use of force and intimidation to change the status quo cannot be justified.
In a speech at the Asia Security Summit in Singapore, Abe said the rule of law is what makes the Asia-Pacific region stable, adding countries should adhere to international law, avoid resorting to force, and resolve conflicts peacefully.
The speech, the first by a Japanese prime minister at the forum also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, came amid a recent spike in regional tensions as China deployed an oil rig on VietNam's continental shelf. Abe expressed hope that a code of conduct will be put in place in the South China Sea soon, adding Japan is studying the possibility of providing patrol ships to Viet Nam.
Tokyo and Beijing remain at odds over the sovereignty of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, with Chinese fighter jets recently flying very close to Japanese Self-Defence Forces aircraft in the area.
To avoid contingencies at sea and in the skies, Abe urged China to keep its promise made in 2007 to set up a communications mechanism, and pursue dialogue.
Abe is trying to bolster Japan's defence capabilities as part of his broader remodelling of the country's security architecture to better address China's growing assertiveness and North Korea's missile and nuclear development programmes.
At the same time, he is strengthening bilateral ties not just with Japan's traditional ally the United States, but also with Southeast Asian countries and Australia to counterbalance the rise of China.
The Shangri-La Dialogue is being held as domestic debate intensifies over whether Japan should exercise the right to collective self-defence, in what would be a major departure from its postwar pacifist policy.
But Abe emphasised Japan will continue to be a pacifist state that makes a greater contribution to global peace.
The Vietnamese delegation to the dialogue held several meetings with foreign partners on the sidelines of the 13th IISS Asia Security Summit after their arrival in Singapore yesterday.
Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh held separate meetings with his counterparts from New Zealand, Jonathan Coleman, and Singapore, Ng Eng Heng.
Deputy Defence Minister Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh met with the head of the Russian delegation, Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov, and the head of the Chinese delegation, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong.
Minister Thanh and other members of the Vietnamese delegation also held a working session with officials of US company Lockheed Martin. He is scheduled to deliver a speech at the dialogue's third plenary session today and will also hold more bilateral meetings with the heads of some delegations to the event.
Hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the annual dialogue will have five plenary sessions. Participants will focus on the US's contributions to regional stability, the process of advancing military-to-military co-operation and the handling of tensions and conflict in the Asia-Pacific.