TOKYO (AP) — Japan and Vietnam agreed Tuesday to bolster their security ties through Japanese-funded projects including the upgrading of Vietnamese coastal patrol capabilities, defense equipment and technology transfer amid concerns about China's increasingly assertive activity in regional seas.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, held talks in Tokyo and shared "deep concern over the complex developments" involving China in the South China Sea. They urged China — without referring to it by name — to avoid taking actions to change the status quo and escalate regional tensions.
China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by several other countries in the region including Vietnam.
Japan and Vietnam reaffirmed the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and agreed to pursue it despite the United States' withdrawal. The two leaders agreed to cooperate in discussions among the 11 remaining TPP members to bring the agreement into force, according to a joint statement.
The two countries signed more than a dozen agreements, including one for 38 billion yen ($350 million) in Japanese aid to upgrade Vietnamese coast guard vessels and their patrol capability. The maritime security upgrade is part of Japan's 100 billion yen ($910 million) loan signed Tuesday, which also included science and technology and water management projects.
Abe expressed hope that the assistance would also provide business opportunities for Japan to contribute its expertise and technology for Vietnam's development.
Abe said Japan hopes to enhance cooperation to strengthen "a free and open international order based on the rule of law," calling it "the cornerstone of stability and prosperity for international society."
Associated Press videojournalist Emily Wang in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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