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Japan extends patrol ship carrot to Vietnam, plus ¥96 billion loan

Kyodo

Japan and Vietnam will discuss the idea of providing Japanese patrol ships to the Vietnam coast guard to help counter China’s growing claims to contested reefs and islands in the South China Sea, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday.

“Our countries’ cooperation is extremely important for regional peace and stability, especially for maintaining maritime order as well as international aviation order,” Abe said at a joint press conference with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung after their talks in Tokyo.

And to boost Vietnam’s economy, Abe pledged about ¥96 billion in new loans mainly for highway and port construction projects.

Vietnam and some other ASEAN states are at odds with Beijing over overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea. In July, Japan said it would provide Manila with 10 coast guard patrol ships through a yen loan.

In Sunday’s meeting, Dung told Abe that he “understands” Japan’s concern with China’s newly declared air defense identification zone over the East China Sea, which covers the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, said Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko.

“There is a need to secure peace, stability and prosperity in the region by ensuring freedom of overflight and freedom of navigation in line with international law,” Dung said.

Dung was quoted by Seko as saying that he is worried about coercive moves to change the status quo in the South China Sea and hopes that an effective and legally binding Code of Conduct can be drafted to prevent potential conflicts over such claims.

In a joint statement issued Saturday after the main summit talks concluded between Japan and ASEAN, Japan praised the fact that official talks on such a code were launched between China and ASEAN in September.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.