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Japan, Sri Lanka agree to boost maritime security cooperation

Kyodo

Japan and Sri Lanka agreed Thursday to strengthen bilateral cooperation in Indian Ocean maritime security and coast guard patrols, including greater exchanges between their defense authorities to fight piracy.

At a meeting in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa agreed to “upgrade and expand” bilateral cooperation and discussions to “effectively address maritime issues common to both countries,” they said in a joint statement.

On China, which is locked in a sovereignty dispute with Japan over the Japan-held Senkaku islets in the East China Sea, Abe called Beijing’s increased maritime incursions a “concern common to the region,” a Japanese official said.

While noting that the door to dialogue is always open, Abe told his Sri Lankan counterpart that an “attempt to change the status quo with force will be met with calm and resolute responses.”

Rajapaksa said it is best to resolve the dispute through dialogue, according to the official.

According to the statement, Japan will provide Sri Lanka with about ¥41.1 billion in loans and about ¥2.7 billion in grants for infrastructure-building and disaster prevention.

The leaders also pledged that Japan and Sri Lanka will share responsibility in ensuring stability in the Indian Ocean region and agreed to expand cooperation between the coast guards of the two countries in such areas as law-enforcement and disaster-prevention.

Japan had been one of Sri Lanka’s largest donors for years, but China has in recent times become the top donor. China has particularly been active in harbor construction, including a commercial port project in southern Sri Lanka.