SINGAPORE - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Friday his country would play a larger role in promoting peace in Asia, and called for the rule of law to be upheld in the region.
Laying out a vision of Tokyo as a counterweight to the growing might of China, Abe offered Japan's help to regional allies "to ensure security of the seas and skies". He said Japan and its partner the United States stood ready to bolster security cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote peace.
"Japan intends to play an even greater and more proactive role than it has until now in making peace in Asia and the world something more certain," he said in a keynote speech at an Asia security forum.
Abe made his speech as territorial disputes simmered in the region, involving China and some Southeast Asian states in the South China Sea as well as between Tokyo and Beijing in the East China Sea.
Abe repeatedly used the phrase "rule of law" during his speech, urging nations to respect international norms in dealing with territorial disputes and avoiding the use of force.
"Let me just repeat. Japan for the rule of law. Asia for the rule of law. And the rule of law for all of us," he said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a security forum involving defence chiefs, military officials and security experts.
Abe said Japan will provide ten new patrol ships to the Philippines Coast Guard as part of its efforts to bolster security in Southeast Asia.
He said three such vessels have already been provided to Indonesia, while authorities are also planning to provide vessels to Vietnam.
The Japanese premier added that around 250 people from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have so far received coast guard training from Japan.