Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III pledged Tuesday to deepen security cooperation, at a time when their countries are facing growing military assertiveness from China.

During a news conference following a 45-minute meeting and a working lunch in Tokyo on Tuesday, the two leaders said the rule of law should be ensured to maintain regional stability, an apparent reference to Beijing's muscle-flexing in territorial disputes with both Tokyo and Manila.

"Japan is a strategic partner of the Philippines. It is thus incumbent upon us to have continuous dialogue as we jointly face the changing dynamics of our regional security environment," Aquino said. "Advancement of our people and our region can only be fully realized in a context that fosters stability."