Asean summits

Japan offers to train maritime security officials from Asean

Japan is offering to train some 1,000 maritime security officials from Asean, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during the Asean-Japan summit yesterday.

According to Japanese officials interviewed by The Straits Times, the three-year initiative would cover mainly coast guards, but also include personnel who monitor sea traffic.

Concerns over maritime security have heightened due to ongoing territorial disputes over the South China Sea.

Asean claimant states such as Vietnam and the Philippines have been trying to beef up their coast guard fleets in the light of major upgrades by China, which claims almost all of the resource- rich waterway.

Research by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a US think-tank, has found that Chinese coast guard ships have been involved in most of the clashes in the South China Sea since 2010.

Mr Yasuhisa Kawamura, the press secretary of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Straits Times: "We are responding to countries' call for assistance to enhance their capacity to deal with ocean management."

He said this included rescue operations at sea.

According to Mr Kawamura, Mr Abe also made a strong case at the summit for adherence to international law, arguing that the July's Arbitral Tribunal ruling on China's overlapping claims with the Philippines was legally binding.

China has rejected the ruling, which dismissed its maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Mr Abe said "Japan welcomes dialogue between China and Asean, which should be made on the premise that non-militarisation and self-restraint be maintained".

He was also "seriously concerned that attempts to change the status quo unilaterally continue, both in the East China Sea and South China Sea".

Tokyo and Beijing have overlapping claims over a group of islets in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

China has also been criticised for its massive reclamation work on contested reefs in the South China Sea where it has placed military installations.

Speaking at the same meeting, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded Japan for playing a key role in promoting regional stability and prosperity.

According to Mr Lee's press secretary Chang Li Lin, the Prime Minister highlighted the broad- based cooperation Asean has with Japan, covering areas such as disaster management, maritime security, education and tourism.

Mr Lee welcomed Japan's consistent support for the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2016, with the headline Japan offers to train maritime security officials from Asean. Subscribe