NUSA DUA, INDONESIA – Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida expressed concern Saturday about China’s increasingly assertive naval activities at a ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Indonesia.
“It is critical to allow for unimpeded movement of people and goods. APEC members are connected to each other by sea and it benefits all of us to keep ensuring the freedom of navigation,” Kishida told the two-day gathering, which began Friday on the island of Bali.
“Establishing rules by law is fundamental for economic growth” in the region, Kishida told the participants, who included Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong.
The remarks come after Kishida, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop voiced concern about China’s maritime assertiveness during trilateral talks Friday on the sidelines of the APEC meeting.
In a joint statement released after their discussions, the three stressed that they “opposed any coercive or unilateral actions that could change the status quo in the East China Sea,” without directly naming China.
The statement further noted “the importance of efforts to reduce tensions and to avoid miscalculations or accidents in the East China Sea, including by improving marine communications.”
Tensions between Japan and China have soared over the past year following Tokyo’s effective nationalization of the Senkaku Islands, which China and Taiwan also claim, in the East China Sea. China is further involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea with various Southeast Asian countries.
On the South China Sea sovereignty clashes, the statement urged all claimants “to refrain from actions that could increase tensions, to clarify and pursue claims in accordance with international law.”
While China remains resolved to protect its interests, it has joined countries with competing claims in calling for a peaceful resolution to the disputes and has talked of creating a code of conduct for all parties to follow.
Concerning North Korea, Kishida, Kerry and Bishop expressed their “deep concern” over Pyongyang’s human rights violations, including the past abductions of Japanese citizens, as well as its continued nuclear and missile development programs in the face of global pressure to shut them down.
The three also hailed recent developments toward restarting international talks on Iran’s alleged nuclear weaponization drive, saying they hope the country will “engage substantively . . . in the new round of talks” on the issue with the United States and some European Union nations.
On the civil war in Syria, they demanded the regime of President Bashar Assad fully respect a recent U.N. resolution that was adopted unanimously on dismantling Damascus’ chemical weapons.
The 21-member APEC forum, which includes China and the United States, will hold a summit from Monday to Tuesday.
Indonesia, Japan unite against pirates
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, have agreed to promote cooperation in protecting key sea lanes in Southeast Asia from pirates.
At their meeting Friday on the margins of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ministerial meeting in Bali, Indonesia, Kishida and Natalegawa discussed the prospect of bilateral and multilateral cooperation on an issue that has been drawing increasing attention as pirates continue to raid commercial vessels in the Straits of Malacca.
Japan depends on the straits to import natural resources from the Middle East.
The aid might include Japan Coast Guard training for Indonesian maritime security authorities, an official said.