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.