VIENTIANE – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, have reaffirmed their shared stance on territorial tensions in the South China Sea, obliquely calling on China to comply with an international tribunal ruling rejecting its territorial claims to much of the waters.
In a roughly hourlong meeting on the fringes of regional gatherings in the Laotian capital, Abe and Turnbull agreed on the importance of maintaining a rules-based order.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the leaders reaffirmed that the South China Sea issue should be resolved peacefully in line with international law, including the July ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which sided with the Philippines in denying China’s claims to vast parts of the area.
In a veiled reference to China’s territorial assertions at sea, they reaffirmed their strong opposition to one-sided attempts to alter the status quo by force in a way that can raise tensions.
Abe explained to Turnbull Japan’s position on the East China Sea, where it is embroiled in its own maritime tensions with China over the Tokyo-controlled, Beijing-claimed Senkaku Islands.
They agreed that the international community should respond resolutely to provocative acts by North Korea, and that U.N. Security Council resolutions should be stringently enforced to put more pressure on the country.
North Korea has carried out a series of ballistic missile launches in recent months, most recently Monday, despite U.N. resolutions banning such activity.
Abe and Turnbull also pledged to further advance their security and defense cooperation, bilaterally and with the United States, in the “increasingly severe security environment” of the Asia-Pacific region.
Turnbull had stressed Australia’s ongoing commitment to its strategic partnership with Japan in April after Canberra awarded a multibillion-dollar contract to build Australian naval submarines to a French firm, turning down a bid from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.
They vowed to work together regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, which Japan and Australia signed with 10 other Pacific Rim nations in February.