MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will reassert the country’s commitment of upholding freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in Japan next week.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo Montealegre said Duterte and Abe would hold a bilateral meeting on May 31, their seventh meeting since 2016.
“[The meeting] will be an opportunity for the two leaders to take stock of the progress of our strengthened strategic partnership in such areas as defense and security, economic cooperation, infrastructure development, the entry of Filipino skilled workers in Japan, Japanese assistance for the development of the Bangsamoro region, as well as exchanged views on regional issues of mutual concern including the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea,” Montealegre said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
The Philippines and China have been locked in a long standing maritime dispute over parts of the South China Sea.
Japan, unlike the Philippines, is not a claimant in the South China Sea but considers the disputed waterway as a vital sea lane for trade in the region.
In 2016, the Philippines sealed a historic win against China before the United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, invalidating Beijing’s sweeping claims to almost all of the South China Sea.
China, however has repeatedly ignored the ruling.
“Well, the peace and stability in the region is a mutual concern to both the Philippines and Japan, and the South China Sea is central in this regard,” Montelagre said.
“So the Philippines, for its parts, has always affirmed its commitment to uphold the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight, freedom of commerce and other lawful activities, exercise of self-restraint, and the peaceful resolution of disputes,” he added.
South China Sea dispute on agenda in Duterte, Abe meeting in Japan