SINGAPORE - Japan is committed to help build confidence and capacity with its Asean partners to ensure regional security, the country's defence chief Tomomi Inada said on Saturday (June 3) even as she slammed China's "provocations" in the East and South China Seas and North Korea for its sabre-rattling.
Speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, Ms Inada repeated what has turned into the annual high-level security forum's buzz phrase this year: rules-based order.
"Now is the time...to protect the rules-based order," Ms Inada told Asia-Pacific defence and security leaders gathered at the Shangri-La Hotel.
She called for nations to build an "inclusive world" in which "all countries are equal before rules" and there are "shared expectations on how other countries conduct themselves without fear of intimidation".
She singled out China's "unprovoked and unilateral attempts to change the status quo" in the East and South China Seas.
Japan and China have long been at loggerheads over tiny, uninhabited islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China in the East China Sea.
They are controlled by Japan but claimed also by China.
Chinese coastguard ships have made more than a dozen incursions in the contested waters, Japan's coastguard said - a point which Ms Inada highlighted in her speech on Saturday.
She also alluded to China's moves to militarise islands and reefs in the South China Sea. China's claim to most of the vital waterway overlaps with claims by Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
The conflict has been a source of rising tension in the region, as well as a recurring focus at the Shangri-La Dialogue.
"Japan is with those countries which endeavour to uphold rules based international order," said Ms Inada.