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Zero tolerance for forcibly altering status quo to top Abe-Obama rendezvous

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama plan to declare in a summit Thursday that the two allies will not tolerate any attempt to alter the status quo by force or coercion, a move aimed at keeping China and Russia in check, sources involved in bilateral relations said Saturday.

Abe and Obama will express a tough stance over repeated intrusions by Chinese patrol ships into waters around the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, as well as Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last month and Moscow’s alleged involvement with unrest in eastern Ukraine, the sources said.

The two leaders are also expected to affirm close coordination in ensuring maritime security, bearing in mind China’s rising clout and assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region, they said.

Abe and Obama are planning to spell out such calls, as well as the robustness of the Japan-U.S. alliance, in a document to be issued after their summit in Tokyo, according to the sources.

Japan has drawn parallels between Russia’s actions in Ukraine and China’s perceived challenge to the status quo over the Senkaku Islands, claimed as Diaoyu by Beijing and Tiaoyutai by Taiwan.

In the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which major democracies have condemned as posing a serious challenge to the global rule of law, Tokyo and Washington have agreed that opposition to any attempt to forcibly alter the status quo will be “one of the most important issues that must be confirmed” at the summit, the sources said.

Tokyo has requested that Obama unequivocally state at a post-summit news conference with Abe that the Senkaku Islands fall under the Japan-U.S. security treaty, which obliges the United States to defend Japan, the sources said.

In an apparent effort to avoid provoking China, the United States has expressed reluctance to cite the islands by name in the envisaged document. As a result, the two countries have settled for Obama’s statement at the news conference.

As for the escalating tensions in Ukraine, Abe plans to tell Obama that Japan will cooperate with the United States in dealing with Russia over the issue, according to the sources. The two leaders are expected to reaffirm their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

On the issue of maritime security, Abe and Obama will declare close bilateral cooperation to help members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to strengthen their coast guards through the provision of patrol boats and personnel training, the sources said.

The two leaders also plan to reiterate that North Korea’s nuclear and missile development projects are a clear threat to their two countries and the broader region. Obama is likely to support the Abe government’s efforts to address North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, the sources said.