TOKYO - President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga agreed Monday to closely cooperate over issues related to the South China Sea, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said, as Beijing continues its military buildup in the waters despite the concerns of neighboring countries.
During their 20-minute telephone conversation, Suga voiced eagerness to further develop the strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines and work together to realize a "free and open Indo-Pacific," the ministry said.
China lays claim to almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway through which more than one-third of global trade passes. Its fortification of artificial islands with military assets including airstrips and anti-ship missiles has drawn fierce criticism from other claimants including the Philippines and Vietnam.
Suga also expressed support for Duterte's efforts to spur economic growth through infrastructure projects, and the two affirmed cooperation on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry said.