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Japan, Philippines agree to work toward free, open Indo-Pacific

TOKYO — Japan and the Philippines agreed Friday to work toward achieving a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific region by strengthening security cooperation.


Japan will also continue to support building infrastructure and promoting the peace process in Mindanao between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.


“As we are both maritime nations sharing basic values and strategic interests, we will strengthen coordination in tackling important challenges, including the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law,” Abe told a joint press held at his office.


Facing territorial disputes with China in the East and South China seas, respectively, Japan and the Philippines call themselves “strategic partners.”


Abe and Duterte also agreed to cooperate in achieving North Korea’s denuclearization by firmly implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions and resolving Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.


Duterte, who assumed his post in 2016, has been seen as taking a conciliatory approach to China despite the territorial row over the Spratly Islands, where China has reclaimed land and built an airstrip and other facilities.


He visited China in late April for a forum on Beijing’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure development initiative.


Abe praised Duterte’s own “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure development program, saying Japan will continue to extend its assistance.


Duterte expressed appreciation for Japan’s development assistance, saying, “It’s the gold standard for the Philippines’ development cooperation with partner countries.”


Abe said the Philippines has decided to lift restrictions on imports of fishery products from Fukushima Prefecture, which have been in place following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.


Japan argues that fishery products from Fukushima are safe to eat because they are shipped after clearing strict radiation checks.


Some countries have been maintaining a total or partial import ban on the products.


In April, the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of South Korea which has maintained its import ban on fishery products from Fukushima and some other prefectures.

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