West Philippine Sea issue should be resolved peacefully — Japanese official

By Priam F. Nepomuceno

MANILA, (PNA) — With the country currently embroiled with a territorial spat with China, Ichita Yamamoto, Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories and Minister-in-Charge of Ocean Policy and Territorial Issues of Japan, said the Japanese government believes the West Philippines Sea issue should be resolved peacefully.

He made this statement shortly after meeting with Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in DND headquarters in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City Thursday morning.

“We shared the view that any country should not pursue to change status quo unilaterally by force, also the establishment of the rule of law is very, very important and also we agreed that both countries should cooperate together, with each other to continue to send strong messages to international community,” Yamamoto said through his interpreter.

Yamamoto said that Japan shares the same situation with the Philippines in regards of territorial disputes.

Earlier in the year, Japanese and Chinese planes and ships were involved in a stand-off in the Senkaku Islands which China is claiming as part of its territory.

The island straddles rich fishing grounds and gateway to key shipping lanes.

He also declined to comment on whether the Japanese military will deploy some of its assets to the Philippines.

“I would like to refrain from making a detailed comment from that question because I believe that that is the capacity that (of) Minister Onedera, our Defense Minister. However, I believe that the recent visit by Defense Minister Onodera set a very quality path between the future between Japan and the Philippines and I believe that further cooperation will be promoted along,” Yamamoto stressed.

The Philippines and the US is currently in the midst of talks regarding increased rotational presence of American troopers and equipment in the country. Should this push through, the agreement will also allow other countries, especially Filipino allies, to base or deploy some of their military assets in the country.