SINGAPORE – Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and his Vietnamese counterpart, Gen. Phung Quang Thanh, agreed Sunday to strengthen defense cooperation amid alarm in both countries over China’s maritime assertiveness in the East China and South China seas.
“We need to send a joint message among parties concerned because doing so will help resolve issues that we are confronting,” Onodera told reporters after the talks, held on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Singapore.
Onodera told his counterpart that Japan supports Vietnam’s handling of its recent standoff with China, that the use of force to change the status quo should not be tolerated and that the issue should be resolved through dialogue.
Regional tensions remain high after a Vietnamese fishing boat sank last Monday following a collision with a Chinese ship. The incident came after China unilaterally deployed an oil drilling rig in disputed waters around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
During the talks, the Vietnamese defense minister said China has put pressure on Hanoi, but that territorial issues should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law.
The ministers were in Singapore to attend the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue through Sunday to discuss regional security challenges and opportunities for defense cooperation.
Also at the meeting in Singapore, Onodera and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, confirmed that the two nations will accelerate talks aimed at concluding a bilateral pact on the joint development of defense equipment.
Later Sunday, Onodera separately met with New Zealand Defense Minister Jonathan David Coleman.
They agreed to promote cooperation between the Self-Defense Forces and the New Zealand military in response to natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes that may occur in the future.
In New Zealand, more than 180 people, including several Japanese students, died in a strong earthquake that hit Christchurch in February 2011, just a month before a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami ravaged the Tohoku region, killing more than 15,000 people.