HANOI – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung agreed Wednesday to deepen bilateral security cooperation in the face of China’s growing maritime assertiveness.
In Abe’s first stop on his three-nation tour of Southeast Asia, Japan and Vietnam confirmed their opposition to “changing the status quo by force” in the South China Sea, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko said, noting the indirect reference to China’s maritime disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines.
After the summit, Dung said the leaders shared the view that all disputes and problems in the Asia-Pacific region “should be solved through peaceful negotiations based on international law.”
Abe said Tokyo and Hanoi “face common challenges in the region and complement each other economically as partners,” pledging to pursue further political and security cooperation.
The prime minister nonetheless told Dung that Japan regards its ties with China as “one of its most important bilateral relationships” and that Tokyo will maintain and strengthen communications with Beijing to manage relations, which have been strained by a dispute in the East China Sea over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, Seko said.
The government’s purchase of three of the five disputed islets from their Saitama titleholder last September, effectively nationalizing the chain, triggered riots and brought Sino-Japanese ties to their lowest point in years. China claims sovereignty over the Senkakus and calls them Diaoyu.
Abe said Tokyo will “continue to calmly respond to (the row) as a responsible nation in the region,” Seko said. Dung expressed his understanding and support for Tokyo’s position, he added.
Abe expressed regret about North Korea’s satellite launch last month and called for Vietnam’s support in resolving the North’s past abductions of Japanese. Vietnam maintains diplomatic ties with North Korea.
On the economic front, Abe, elected in December, pledged $500 million in fresh yen loans to Vietnam to finance projects to build and improve roads and bridges as well as build thermal power plants in the country.