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Japan, Philippines to Tighten Links as Maritime Disputes Fester

Japan and the Philippines agreed to boost maritime cooperation and pledged to seek “responsible action” on territorial disputes from other nations.

“We reviewed the security challenges that confront our nations, and pledged to cooperate in advancing our common advocacy for responsible action from international players,” Philippine President Benigno Aquino said in a briefing in Manila today after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Both nations are embroiled in territorial disputes with Asian neighbors including China, Taiwan and Vietnam. Aquino is boosting military ties with the U.S. and Japan as China increases its presence in the fish- and gas-rich South China Sea. Abe backed his nation’s first increase in military spending in 11 years, and his Defense Ministry is urging a buildup of marine forces to counter Chinese moves around disputed islets in the East China Sea.

Japan will provide a yen loan to equip the Philippine Coast Guard with 10 new patrol vessels, and a 10 billion yen ($102 million) standby credit for disaster response, Abe said today. Both nations agreed to promote cooperation in terms of transportation infrastructure in Manila, he said without elaborating.

Japan and the Philippines support “upholding the rule of law in international affairs, and finding just and peaceful solutions to our territorial disputes and maritime concerns,” Aquino said.

Japan wants summit meetings with both China and South Korea and is prepared to discuss issues with China without conditions, Abe said.

‘Frank and Candid’

“It’s important that we have frank and candid discussions” with China, Abe said. “I will instruct foreign affairs authorities to proceed with dialogue without conditions. Meetings at the foreign minister and leadership levels should be held promptly.”

In response to questions on Japan’s budget, Abe said he intends to complete the draft of a medium-term fiscal plan by August, and will determine later this year the level of a proposed increase in the nation’s consumption tax, a move aimed at helping cut by half the primary balance deficit by fiscal 2015.

“We need to solidify economic growth, grow out of deflation and address fiscal consolidation,” Abe said.

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