KUALA LUMPUR – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the Self-Defense Forces will not join U.S. freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, just days after telling President Barack Obama he would consider the move.
The SDF does not engage in regular surveillance activities in the South China Sea at the moment and has no concrete plans to do so, Abe said Sunday at a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.
He said the U.S. operations, conducted to contest China’s territorial claims in the sea, including construction of artificial islands, are separate from SDF activities and Japan will not participate.
At a bilateral meeting with Obama in Manila on Thursday, Abe expressed his intention to consider SDF participation in surveillance activities in the South China Sea, drawing immediate opposition at home.
However, following the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, which brought together leaders of Asia-Pacific countries including the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations members, Japan, China, South Korea and the United States, he has ruled it out.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, Abe flagged strengthening international cooperation in anti-terrorism measures, condemning the attacks as a clear challenge to universal values of humankind.
The government will set up a new unit in the Foreign Ministry to gather international information on terrorism in early December, Abe said.
Regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade pact, which was broadly agreed on last month by Japan, the United States and 10 other countries, Abe said the government would endeavor to achieve Diet approval as soon as possible.
Abe reaffirmed the government will map out a package of effective measures to cushion the domestic impact of the pact in a bid to relieve public anxieties.
The package is expected to be adopted as early as Wednesday.