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Japanese, Vietnamese defense ministers seek peaceful resolution of PRC expansion in South China Sea

Japanese, Vietnamese defense ministers seek peaceful resolution of PRC expansion in South China Sea


Defense ministers from Japan and Vietnam agreed to cooperate in May 2019 to counter the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) aggression in the South China Sea, several Japanese wire services reported.

Japan’s Takeshi Iwaya and Vietnam’s Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich met in Hanoi over three days in early May 2019 to build on defense discussions initiated in the past few years. Iwaya outlined Japan’s priorities, which the nation detailed in its national defense program guidelines published in December 2018. Japan explicitly identifies China’s expansionism and aggressive activities, such as the construction of artificial islands and military facilities on features in the South China Sea, as “a serious concern for the region including Japan and for the international community.” Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam all stake claims to parts of the South China Sea, which the PRC claims almost in its entirety.

“Japan hopes to further deepen ties with Vietnam in the era of Reiwa,” Iwaya told Lich during the talks, according to The Japan Timesnewspaper. Japan entered a new imperial era in early May after the ascension of Emperor Naruhito.

Lich reciprocated Iwaya’s sentiments, saying he hoped the visit, which had been scheduled as a follow-up to their June 2018 meeting, would “contribute to pushing bilateral defense ties to a new stage,” the paper reported. (Pictured: Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich, left, attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations security summit in Singapore in October 2018.)

Japan and Vietnam have enjoyed a diplomatic relationship for more than 45 years and worked to enhance the security portion of their cooperation in recent years. In 2018, they signed an agreement to strengthen their defense ties. They have also conducted joint naval drills, port calls and agreed to increase coast guard activities. For example, a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force submarine Kuroshio visited Cam Ranh International Port in Kham Hoa in September 2018 for several days.

After the Hanoi defense discussions in early May 2019, the defense ministers also signed a memorandum of understanding to acknowledge the nations’ plans for their defense industries to work together. They will likely cooperate in providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance as well as in boosting cyber and maritime security, the online magazine, the Diplomat, reported, and continue efforts to combine resources for training, information technology, military medicine and U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Iwaya also emphasized the need for enforcing U.N. sanctions against North Korea to enable denuclearization of the regime. He also asked for Vietnam’s support to address North Korea’s past abduction of Japanese citizens, The Japan Timesreported.