China issue to top Aquino, Abe agenda

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President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are scheduled to hold talks in Tokyo on Tuesday in a summit meeting between leaders of two countries locked in territorial disputes with China.

Relatedly, the Philippines has continued to lobby for its proposed moratorium on Chinese activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in a meeting between senior officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and South Korea.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the two leaders will discuss regional issues and different areas of cooperation between the Philippines and Japan to deepen strategic partnership.

“The meeting is an opportunity for the two leaders to exchange views on recent regional developments and to discuss areas of cooperation to enhance our strategic partnership,” Jose told a press conference.


“These areas of cooperation include humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime cooperation, promotion of trade and investments, people-to-people exchanges and the Mindanao peace process,” he added.

Asked to confirm if the two leaders will discuss territorial disputes with China, Jose said the issue will be “one of the topics that will be discussed when they talk about recent regional developments.”

“We can see so much developments happening in the South China Sea, East China Sea. So I’m sure they will be sharing views and exchanging views on this issue,” he said.

The Philippines and Japan are both locked in a maritime row with China. China and the Philippines continue to be embroiled in a territorial dispute over potentially oil-rich parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), while Beijing and Tokyo also contest a string of Japanese-administered islets in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

“For us, with regard to the South China Sea, it is very important for the President to brief the Japanese side on the arbitration case that we filed against China. I’m sure the President will be updating the Prime Minister on the status of our case,” Jose said.

From Tokyo, Aquino will travel to Hiroshima to deliver the keynote speech at the Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao Conference, organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Research and Education for Peace of the Universiti Sains Malaysia.

Jose said that the President’s attendance in the event is important because it serves as a follow-up to government actions on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which aims to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

Aquino is expected to share the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the peace assembly.

The President’s delegation will include Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, Presidential Management Staff head Julia Abad, and Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles.

Aquino will return to Manila on the same day after the meeting with the Japanese Prime minister.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Evan Garcia briefed discussed the proposed moratorium in the Asean-Korea meeting, which was primarily focused on the preparations for the Asean-Republic of Korea (ROK) Commemorative Summit in December 2014,

The December summit that will be held in Busan will be in celebration of the 25 years of Asean-ROK dialogue relations.

Garcia highlighted the importance of stopping Chinese activities in the disputed region to deescalate tensions.

He added that China’s moves undermine the significance of the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct (DOC), which aims to reduce tensions and prevent aggressive actions in the disputed sea.

The DOC will also be the basis for the conclusion of the Code of Conduct (COC), seen by the Philippines as an agreement that can manage Beijing’s growing aggressiveness in the region.

Garcia noted that “this interim tension-reduction measure is immediately needed to manage rising tensions, even as China and Asean continue discussions on a COC in the West Philippine Sea and before the Arbitral Tribunal issues its ruling that will clarify maritime entitlements in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos], which would benefit all claimants, the region and the international community.”

The official made these comments amid Beijing’s reported reclamation of at least five reefs in the region: the Mabini Reef, the Malvar Reef, the Calderon Reef, the Burgos Reef and the Kennan Reef.

Both the Asean and the South Korean government agreed that they play an “important role,” not only in the regional context, but also in the “larger, global perspective as long-term partners for peace and prosperity.”

Aside from the proposed moratorium, Garcia also talked about disaster risk reduction and management because he was the lead speaker on climate change, disaster and water management.

“One of our first realizations as a result of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda is that short-term solutions will not suffice in responding to such mega-disaster,” Garcia said.

He called on the 10-member bloc and South Korea to enhance their cooperation in disaster risk reduction and management by working closely to strengthen the resilience of each country and addressing climate change.

Asean groups together the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam.

The two sides also reviewed the progress of Asean-ROK cooperation in the political-security, economic, and socio-cultural fields, and exchanged views on regional and international issues.

Officials said they look forward to the Asean-ROK Commemorative Summit in December as a “milestone” to further enhance their strategic partnership.

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