On the first day of the 2-day gathering in Tokyo of vice-minister level representatives of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), vice Defence Minister Akinori Eto spoke during the opening session of the closed-door meeting and pointed the issues that faced the members in terms of security and defense. “The Asia-Pacific region has various issues concerning security and defense… including territorial conflicts in the South China Sea,” he said. “On top of the growing maturity of our economic cooperation, Japan and ASEAN need to further strengthen ties in the field of security and defense.”
It is no secret that China has been very aggressive recently as it claims most of the territory in the East and South China Seas, even those that are clearly closer to the shores of its neighbors. The Japan-controlled Senkakus/Diaoyus have been a source of growing tension between the two countries. Only this Tuesday it was reported that three Chinese government vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile territorial zone off one of the Senkaku islands and spent a couple of hours there. Last year, China and the Philippines were engaged in a stand-off over the Scarborough Shoal when patrol vessels from both sides met each other on the seas in April.
Eto pointed out that Japan’s new government is very keen in enforcing cooperation with ASEAN countries in terms of security and defense, in order to keep peace in the region. Remember that Japan also sought stronger cooperation with the United States. The gathering is the first high-ranking defense dialogue of its kind since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to office in late December.[via Channel News Asia]