Abe to preach freedom of navigation at East Asia Summit

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to stress the need for the rule of law in the South China Sea in upcoming East Asia and ASEAN-related summits, focusing on freedom of navigation and taking indirect aim at Beijing's island-building.

Abe will meet with US President Barack Obama ahead of the East Asia Summit, scheduled for Nov. 21-22 in Malaysia, to discuss the matter. He will also seek to gain support from Association of Southeast Asian Nations members such as the Philippines and Vietnam. But China, with Premier Li Keqiang slated to attend the summit, is sure to resist including such concerns in joint statements.

In the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus ended Nov. 4, the US faced fierce opposition from China for trying to include "freedom of navigation" for the South China Sea in a joint statement. As a result, the meeting ended without a joint statement.

China has resorted to checkbook diplomacy in drawing ASEAN members to its side, offering economic assistance, including infrastructure development, to those countries. Their consideration for China prevented the chairperson's statement from last year's East Asia Summit, held in Myanmar, from directly condemning China. The document merely noted accelerated efforts to devise a code of conduct focused on a peaceful resolution of the South China Sea conflict.

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