Asian leaders urge
peace amid concern over Chinese zone
Reuters and AFP, TOKYO
ASEAN leaders, including Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, seventh left, offer a silent prayer to the victims of
Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines during a welcome dinner of the ASEAN-Japan
commemorative summit hosted by Abe at his official residence in Tokyo yesterday.
Asian nations must ensure that territorial
disputes do not erupt into conflict, leaders said yesterday, with Japan and the
Philippines reaffirming their commitment to freedom of flight as concerns grow
over China¡¦s new air defense zone.
Beijing¡¦s growing military strength has sparked concern in Asia and tension has
spiked in the past month after China announced the air defense zone including
islands in the East China Sea also claimed by Taiwan and Japan.
The air defense identification zone has triggered protests from the US and its
close allies, Japan and South Korea
China is also locked in territorial rows with other Asian nations, including the
Philippines, over wide swathes of the South China Sea and has said it might set
up a similar zone there.
¡§We reiterated our commitment to uphold the rule of law, promote the peaceful
settlement of disputes, and to assure freedom of flight in international air
space,¡¨ Philippine President Benigno Aquino III told reporters in Tokyo after
meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Aquino stopped short of mentioning China in the media appearance with Abe, who
has made stronger ties with the 10 members of ASEAN a priority, visiting all of
them during his first year in office.
The charm offensive, which has been underlined by hefty Japanese aid over the
years and rising private investment, culminates in a three-day Tokyo gathering
that began yesterday and is billed officially as celebrating 40 years of
The final statement from the summit, due to be released today, is likely to
state its support for freedom of the air and the seas ¡X but stop short of
Chinese state media kept up the invective against Japan¡¦s complaints over the
air space zone yesterday, with the official Xinhua news agency saying Abe was
going to ¡§stage again its China-is-to-blame game¡¨ at the ASEAN summit.
¡§It is believed that anyone with only half a brain knows that it is Japan who
intentionally set the region on fire in the first place,¡¨ Xinhua said in an
Xinhua also announced the launch of a guided missile frigate, the Sanya, which
it described as a new generation of battleship ¡§especially adept for use in
long-distance vigilance and aerial defense combat.¡¨
Abe has yet to meet the leaders of South Korea or China, and Tokyo¡¦s ties with
its giant neighbor have been fraught since Japan bought three uninhabited
islands in the East China Sea at the center of a territorial dispute ¡X a
situation that other leaders at the meeting said should be rectified.
¡§In particular, it must be said that good relations between Japan and China are
critical to the future of our region,¡¨ Indonesian President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono said in a speech.
Japanese media reports also said that Abe would pledge ¢D2 trillion (US$20
billion) in loans and grants over five years to ASEAN during the summit.
Abe will also announce an expansion of the existing Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund
aimed at economic integration of Southeast Asian countries with a fresh ¢D10
billion, public broadcaster NHK and the Nikkei Shimbun reported.