Abe hints at ops in South China Sea

Abe hints at ops in South China Sea
US President Barack Obama listens as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) speaks at their their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila on November 19, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

MANILA - During a meeting with US President Barack Obama on Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed support for US patrol activities in the South China Sea. Abe also expressed his intention to look into the possibility of the Self-Defence Forces conducting operations in the area, a Japanese official said.

The meeting was held for about an hour and a half on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit held in Manila.

Obama reportedly said that the US Navy's patrol operations near the artificial islands currently being built by China in the South China Sea would continue on a routine basis. In response, Abe said Japan "will consider dispatching its Self-Defence Forces to the sea while examining the impact of the situation there on its security."

Tokyo intends to counter Chinese moves in the South China Sea by proactively taking part in joint exercises with the US military and members belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Under the Japan-US Defence Cooperation Guidelines that were revised in April this year, it has become possible for forces taking part in bilateral joint military exercises to also conduct joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations if deemed necessary.

Tokyo and Washington also attach importance to improving the surveillance capabilities of ASEAN members that possess equipment markedly inferior to that of China.

During the talks with Obama, Abe said Japan "will support the countries concerned through such efforts as defence equipment co-operation and assistance by the SDF in building up capabilities." As a concrete step, Japan plans to provide patrol boats for the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries beset with territorial disputes with China and expand assistance in the field of personnel training, a sector in which Japan excels.

Taking up the security-related laws enacted in September at the outset of the summit with Abe, Obama said the legislation would enable the two countries to discuss methods of global co-operation.

Abe responded by saying it is necessary "to utilize our robust alliance for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and globally." Referring to the relocation of the US Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture, Abe said his administration would resolutely proceed with the relocation plan and that relocation to the Henoko district within the prefecture is "the only option for solving" the issue.

The two leaders also exchanged views over simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris. Expressing "strong indignation" over the terrorist attacks, Abe said: "It's also important, as a step for dealing with terrorism, to resolve the crisis in Syria. Japan would like to contribute proactively in humanitarian assistance and other fields."

In response to Obama's request for Abe's attendance at a Nuclear Security Summit scheduled to be held in Washington next March, Abe said he would attend the meeting if circumstances allow.

Abe and Obama also confirmed their co-operation in realizing the early implementation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework.Speech

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