Japan and the Netherlands have issued a joint statement containing veiled criticism of China’s construction of artificial islands in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte “share concerns caused by any unilateral actions, including the threat or use of force and coercion, that change the status quo and raise tensions in the East and South China Sea,” the leaders said Tuesday in a statement issued after a meeting in Tokyo.
The two leaders “stress the importance to settle disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law,” the statement said, without referring to China’s muscle-flexing in asserting territorial claims in the two seas.
In the East China Sea, China has repeatedly sent patrol ships into Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands in a challenge to Japanese administration of the islets.
“It is encouraging that we were able to share our recognition with the Netherlands, a global leader in international law, on the importance of upholding the rule of law,” Abe said in a news conference with Rutte.
Given that the Netherlands will assume the rotating presidency of the European Union in the first half of next year, Abe and Rutte agreed to step up cooperation so Japan and the 28-nation bloc can reach agreement on a “highly comprehensive and ambitious” free trade agreement “as soon as possible,” according to the statement.
Referring to U.N. climate talks starting at the end of this month in Paris, the leaders vowed to contribute to achieving agreement on a “fair and effective” new carbon-capping framework “applicable to all parties,” including emerging economic powers such as China and India.
Abe and Rutte called for reform of the U.N. Security Council, recognizing that “Japan would be a legitimate candidate for permanent membership in an expanded and reformed Council,” the statement said.
On the crisis in Ukraine, they called on all sides to “fully implement” a cease-fire agreement struck in February. They also expressed “grave concern” about the deteriorating humanitarian and security situations in Syria.
Rutte showed “high levels of appreciation” for Japan’s contribution to the international community since the end of World War II and extended “strong support” for its new security laws which, according to Abe, expand the scope of overseas operations of the Self-Defense Forces.
“I very much look forward to cooperating with the Netherlands for the peace and stability of the world in areas such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace building,” Abe said.
Rutte said that together with areas such as agriculture, aging society, innovation and investment, the Netherlands would like to “step up cooperation in areas like sports science and the concept of smart Olympics” with the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.