(Mainichi: November 3, 2015 – p. 2)
By Hiroshi Odanaka in Seoul
The Japanese government disclosed that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told ROK President Park Geun-hye at their meeting on Nov. 2 that U.S. military vessels’ Operation Freedom of Navigation patrols in the South China Sea, over which China claims sovereignty, are “in line with international law, so [Japan] expressed its support immediately.”
The Japanese government has not disclosed how the South China Sea issue was discussed at Abe’s meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. This means that Japan is giving priority to improving relations with China, while asking the ROK to cooperate with Japan and the U.S.
Japan has not disclosed whether the South China Sea issue was discussed with Li. After the Japan-China summit on Nov. 1, the Japanese side maintained that “neither side will make public the pending issues discussed,” according to a source accompanying Abe.
Abe told reporters on Nov. 2: “For sure, I asserted what needed to be asserted,” hinting that he conveyed Japan’s concerns about reclamation work in the Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands in English) and other issues.
Meanwhile, according to the government’s briefing on the Japan-ROK summit, Abe criticized China’s actions in the South China Sea as a “common concern of the international community,” conveying his desire to work together with the U.S. and the ROK to secure freedom of navigation. This indicated that Japan is falling in step with U.S. concerns about the ROK’s close relations with China. The above source noted that Park’s reaction showed that she “shares the same concern.”