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Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday that Japan would not generate an escalation of tensions in the disputed territories. He made the remarks during a trip to Vietnam and Indonesia, his first trip outside of Japan since taking office last month.
Mr Suga’s presence in the region would help strengthen links between Japan and Southeast Asian countries.
His trip comes amid fears that China is boosting its dominance in the disputed territory.
During a news conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, Mr Suga said: “Japan is opposed to any actions that escalate tensions in the South China Sea.
“Let me stress anew the importance of all the countries concerning the South China Sea issues not resorting to force or coercion, but working toward peaceful resolutions of the disputes based on international law.”
Mr Suga also stressed the importance of ASEAN, the 11-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in the region.
He said: “In the Indo-Pacific that connects maritime transport between Japan and ASEAN, we can achieve the peace and prosperity only by fully implementing rule of law that allows anyone freedom and openness.
“But in the South China Sea, opposite actions are being taken and we are closely watching with grave concern.
“Japan opposes to any action that would increase tensions in the South China Sea.”
Earlier this month, Japan, India, Australia and the United States -a group known as the Quad- met in Tokyo to discuss China’s increasing assertiveness.
At the meeting, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched an attack on China, accusing its ruling Communist Party of “exploitation, corruption and coercion”.
Following the meeting Mr Pompeo taunted a “cooperation” among the affiliated countries.
He tweeted: “Looking forward to discussing increased cooperation to promote our shared vision for a free and open #IndoPacific, composed of nations that are independent, strong, and prosperous.”
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China branded the Quad as a “mini-Nato” aimed at holding back its progress.
Mr Suga was asked whether Japan intended to form an Asian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato).
However, he emphasised that their “response in the South China Sea is not aimed at any one country.”
Currently, several members of the ASEAN have territorial disputes with China in the key region of South China Sea.
It comes after four Jakarta senior officials revealed that US officials sent “high-level” requests in July and August to Indonesia’s defence and foreign ministers to host its P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance while they refuel.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo refuted the help due to the country’s long-standing neutral stance to avoid entering conflict.
Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi expressed her concern over the increasing rivalry between the US and China in the sector.
Ms Retno said: “One word: worrying. That is the political reality that we have to face.”
She added that all 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries proclaimed unity via a joint statement released last month.
All 10 nations were advocating for peace and staying out of troubles between the two superpowers.
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