Abe joins APEC push for anti-terrorism measures

Kyodo

Asia-Pacific leaders condemned the terrorist attacks in Paris, Egypt and elsewhere and called for cooperation to propel growth as a way to stem such violence as they wrapped up a two-day summit Thursday in Manila.

Following the meeting’s close, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Manila. The two leaders were expected to confirm cooperation in addressing China’s increasing territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. They were also expected to agree to reinforce the two powers’ anti-terror cooperation.

In a joint declaration, the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum also called for an increased effort to meet their goal of establishing a region-wide free trade bloc after part of the APEC members agreed last month on what they see as a base trade scheme for the bloc.

While denouncing terrorism, the 21 APEC members avoided any references to territorial disputes in the South China Sea in what is seen as a political concession made to Beijing.

“We will not allow terrorism to threaten the fundamental values that underpin our free and open economies,” they said in the declaration released at the end of the summit.

The communique refers specifically to the crash of a Russian jetliner in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last month and the attacks in Beirut as well as last week’s Paris violence.

The latest in what has been a global wave of condemnation against terrorism since the assault in the French capital came after the Group of 20 major economies on Monday denounced the attacks in the French capital at a meeting in Turkey, calling them “heinous.”

Healthy economic growth can make contributions to reducing poverty and stabilizing society and therefore help in eradicating terrorism, the leaders said.

“Economic growth, prosperity and opportunity are among the most powerful tools to address the root cause of terrorism and radicalization,” they said in the declaration.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the international community to condemn and fight those who would carry out such violence as he arrived in Manila.

The attacks and how best to deal with them was a major topic discussed between Abe and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau.

“The terrorist acts in Paris pose a challenge to the values we share and are protecting. The international community must unite and resolutely condemn (such actions),” Abe told Trudeau during their talks on the sidelines of the summit, according to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko.

Abe said he wanted to work together with Canada and other members of the global community to fight against terrorism, Seko said

The prime minister delivered a similar message of solidarity with world leaders when he attended a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Antalya, Turkey, earlier this week, where fighting against terrorism took center stage. The recently sealed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact also came up during Abe’s meeting with Trudeau, Seko said, as both countries are part of the U.S.-led initiative.

Abe and Trudeau agreed on the importance of the TPP for the region, with Abe describing the Pacific free trade deal as one that “bears a huge strategic importance in contributing to the prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.”

The 12-member TPP also involves Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — all of which are part of the 21-member APEC.

Aside from the Paris attacks that killed more than 120 people and for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, Abe and Obama — who last held talks in April in Washington during Abe’s U.S. trip — are also likely to call again for early implementation of the TPP, Japanese officials said.

On continuing tensions with China in the South China Sea, Abe and Obama are expected to reaffirm their cooperation in ensuring freedom of navigation, upholding the rule of law at sea and opposing any unilateral attempts to change the status quo, a term seen as referring to China’s muscle-flexing at sea, they said.

In light of China’s growing economic and political clout with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Abe has repeatedly said he plans to raise issues concerning the South China Sea in international meetings.

China claims most of the South China Sea, and is locked in territorial rows with four ASEAN members — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — that remain uneasy over the country’s massive and fast-paced land reclamation work in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Although Japan is not directly involved in the overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea, Abe says he sees peace and stability there as crucial to Japan’s economy as $5 trillion worth of trade every year passes through the key shipping route for oil and other imports.

China takes the stance that Japan, the United States and other countries that are not claimants or parties concerned in these disputes should not interfere.

The issue fueled concerns again following the passage late last month of a U.S. guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) of an artificial island China has built. The move irked Beijing, which expressed “resolute opposition” to moves that threaten Chinese sovereignty.