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China Daily Website

Abe seeking to win over ASEAN nations

Updated: 2013-07-29 01:22
By Pu Zhendong ( China Daily)

"For Japan, the Philippines is a strategic partner with whom we share fundamental values and many strategic interests," Abe said, adding that his visit was intended "to strengthen relations with the Philippines in all areas", including politics, security and the economy.

Lian said a military alliance with Manila will give Abe an good excuse to interfere with China's maritime enforcement in the East and South China Seas, given the strategic significance of Southeast Asia.

Sino-Japanese ties have worsened since Japan illegally nationalized parts of China's Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in September. Meanwhile, some member states of the ASEAN, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, are involved in island-related disputes with China in the South China Sea.

At a news conference in Manila, Abe said Japan's problems with China were "inevitable" because they were neighbors, but he stressed that peaceful coexistence between the two regional powers was crucial for Asian peace and prosperity.

"It is important that we have frank and candid discussions. I have given instructions such that the foreign affairs authorities can proceed with dialogue without any conditions attached. Foreign minister-level and leader-level meetings should be held promptly," he said.

Experts said that Abe has been paying lip service to improving relations with China for a long time and that his message was a response to domestic demands and an attempt at gaining support from ASEAN countries.

Wang Kepu, a researcher in Japanese studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said that since the parliamentary elections, Japanese society, and particularly the business community, has been calling for a mending of ties with China, so Abe's comment was an attempt at pacifying domestic sentiment.

"Also, Abe is trying to shift the responsibility of deteriorating China-Japan relations onto Beijing by winning media support in Southeast Asian counties through these frequent dialogue signals," Wang said.

However, Abe's frequent diplomatic moves in Southeast Asia have not prompted enthusiastic responses from regional leaders and media.

During Friday's meeting with Abe, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he hopes that countries with disputes over sovereignty in the South China Sea will manage their differences peacefully and in accordance with international law.

An influential newspaper in Japan, The Mainichi Shimbun, on Thursday also warned of Tokyo's possible "alliance" with certain ASEAN nations to keep China in check, saying, "Japan needs to be aware that ASEAN, whose countries want to continue to grow economically, places the greatest importance on upholding peace and stability in the area."

AFP contributed to this story.


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