Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is chairing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, on Monday to include a “strong message” on North Korea in this year’s ASEAN chairman’s statement.

 

According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Duterte told Abe the Philippines supports Japan on North Korea. At their meeting in Tokyo late last month, he and Abe had agreed to work in close coordination to step up pressure on the North over its nuclear and ballistic missile development.

 

At the leaders’ meeting, Japan and the Philippines signed agreements on loans worth a total of about 100 billion yen ($880 million) for the first phase of Manila’s subway project and a road bypass in the capital, known for its traffic congestion.

 

The countries also agreed on Japan’s provision of grant aid for rebuilding Marawi in the southern island of Mindanao. The Philippine government declared victory last month after a five-month battle in Marawi with militants inspired by the Islamic State extremist group.

 

Japan also agreed to donate TC-90 training aircraft from the Maritime Self-Defense Forces that it had been lending to the Philippine Navy, with Abe calling the move a “big step in defense cooperation.”

 

The Foreign Ministry did not release the details of the leaders’ discussion on the South China Sea, in which the Philippines and four other governments have territorial claims overlapping with those of China.

 

While Japan is not a party to disputes in the South China Sea, it relies on shipping lanes in the area and faces Beijing’s separate claim to Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea.

 

Earlier in the day, Abe met with Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, agreeing to work in close coordination on regional issues including North Korea and the South China Sea. Brunei is one of the ASEAN members whose territorial claims in the sea overlap with China’s.

 

According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, the sultan told Abe that Brunei has reduced its ties with North Korea to the minimum possible extent.

 

They hailed the progress made in Japan-ASEAN relations since Brunei became ASEAN’s country coordinator for Japan in July 2015, vowing to continue to work together in that capacity.

 

==Kyodo