Japan and East Timor on Tuesday expressed “serious concern over the recent situation in the South China Sea,” a veiled criticism of Beijing’s aggressive moves in the waters, including its construction of islands in the disputed Spratly archipelago.
In a meeting in Tokyo with East Timor President Taur Matan Ruak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to continue helping the nation boost its maritime security capacities and in addition promised ¥5 billion in development aid for the Southeast Asian country, a joint press release issued after the meeting said.
Abe reiterated Japan’s support for East Timor’s accession to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the document also said.
The two leaders voiced “opposition to any unilateral actions that could change the status quo and increase tensions,” it said, in an apparent reference to China’s massive island-building program in the hotly contested Spratly archipelago and its deployment of surface-to-air missiles on disputed territory in the Paracel Islands.
“It was significant that (Japan) affirmed coordination with East Timor, a country that shares the principle of the rule of law, in realizing open and stable seas,” Abe said at a joint news conference after the meeting.
Ruak praised Japan for its support of East Timor’s accession to ASEAN and thanked Tokyo for its development assistance.
China has been embroiled in overlapping territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea with Taiwan and four ASEAN member states — Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
The six other ASEAN members are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.
Ruak expressed appreciation for the Self-Defense Forces’ commitment to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as its participation in an exercise hosted by the Australian Defence Force, according to the press release.
Abe expressed Japan’s intention to further promote bilateral defense cooperation, it said.
Ruak, on his first visit to Japan since taking office in May 2012, also said he appreciated the SDF’s contribution to the consolidation of peace, reconstruction and development of East Timor since its independence in 2002.
The two leaders agreed that East Timor, as a producer of oil and natural gas, has contributed to Japan’s energy security, and has important potential in the field.