MANILA — The Philippines and Japan on Friday emphasized the need for countries to stop any activity that might provoke tensions in the disputed South China Sea, saying the conduct agreement negotiated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China should be upheld.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, in a video teleconference, also pointed out the importance of freedom of navigation in the disputed area.
“We call on concerned parties to desist from any action and activity that contravenes the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, as these generate tension, mistrust and uncertainty, and threatens regional peace and stability,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in a statement following the meeting.
In a separate statement, Japan's minister of defense said apart from the South China Sea, the two officials also discussed the situation on the East China Sea "in light of the current events occurring in the region."
Japan in May protested the sending of Chinese ships near the Senkaku Islands, a group of Japanese-controlled, Chinese-claimed uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
"They oppose any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by coercion or any activities that escalate tensions, and reaffirmed the importance of a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law," the statement released by Japan's Ministry of Defense read.
The Philippines and Japan also affirmed their support for a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the resource-rich waters.
Lorenzana had earlier stressed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea during his meeting with Australia’s defense minister also this week.
The country and Australia reiterated that disputes on the area should be resolved in compliance with international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Philippines, 3 of its fellow ASEAN members (Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam), Taiwan and China have competing claims in the South China Sea.
During the meeting, the two defense chiefs also agreed for further development of bilateral cooperation focused on technology transfer and capacity-building.
Lorenzana also conveyed the defense department’s commitment to boosting the country's strategic partnership with Japan.
This is the first meeting between Lorenzana and Kishi after the latter was appointed as Japan’s defense minister in September, the defense department said.