MANILA (Jiji Press) — Foreign Minister Taro Kono expressed deep concerns on Sunday over China’s island-building and militarization in the South China Sea.
Japan will continue to press for the demilitarization of the sea, Kono said at a meeting with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila.
Kono expressed hopes that China and ASEAN will draw up a binding and effective code of conduct in the sea at an early date after the two sides adopted the framework of the code earlier on Sunday.
Japan has been calling on parties concerned to faithfully follow the July 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands, that rejected China’s claims in its territorial dispute with the Philippines in the South China Sea.
Within ASEAN, however, there is a view sympathetic to China, which has ignored the ruling. Under the circumstances, Kono called for the ASEAN members’ cooperation for a peaceful solution to the South China Sea issues, by explaining Japan’s position at Sunday’s meeting, sources with access to the talks said.
Kono also stressed the need to strictly implement U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against North Korea, which is continuing nuclear and missile development, saying that it is necessary to increase pressure on Pyongyang to act toward denuclearization.
Kono proposed that Japan and ASEAN start talks on a technological cooperation treaty aimed at supporting the bloc’s further integration.
The ASEAN side agreed on the proposal. Japanese support measures under consideration include sending experts from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The trip to Manila by Kono was his first overseas visit since he became foreign minister on Thursday as part of a reshuffle of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.
In a separate meeting with the foreign ministers of five Mekong region countries, Kono said Japan will step up assistance to the region, including support for infrastructure and personnel development. The five countries are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
Specifically, Japan plans to help the Mekong countries enhance their connectivity by supporting the construction of roads, railroads and ports, and to assist their introduction of an online customs system.
Infrastructure investment touted
Kono on Monday touted high-quality infrastructure investment promoted by his country in a meeting of the so-called ASEAN Plus Three countries.
With China in mind, Kono highlighted the Japanese efforts in the infrastructure investment area in the meeting in Manila of the foreign ministers of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, China and South Korea.
On China’s maritime expansion, Kono said that a free and open international order of the seas, based on the rule of law, is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the international community.