By Bennett Murray
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Vietnam Monday with promises of financial aid and military patrol boats as both nations challenge China’s maritime claims to neighboring seas.
Following a ceremonial state reception from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Abe met Communist Party Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong, the de-facto leader of Vietnam’s single party communist state.
Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Abe pledged support for increasing Vietnam’s naval capabilities in the South China Sea.
“Japan will help Vietnam to strengthen its maritime capacity as it gives Vietnam new patrol vessels, under the request from Vietnam,” said Abe, who also announced a 130 billion yen ($1.05 billion) loan for Vietnam in 2017.
Japan has previously supplied patrol boats for Vietnam's coast guard, which received several vessels from Tokyo last year.
Vietnam and Japan are both locked into maritime disputes with China, which claims large swathes of the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
Territorial claims to the waters, which contain some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, have provoked international controversy and raised fears of violent naval clashes.
The U.S. Navy frequently conducts “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea with the stated goal of asserting the sea’s international water status under the UN Convention on the Laws of the sea.
China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, which are allegedly outfitted with sophisticated weaponry, has been a particularly strong sticking point for Hanoi, Tokyo and Washington.
Rex Tillerson, who is U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s leading nominee for secretary of state, vowed to forcibly block Chinese access to the artificial islands in his Jan. 11 address to the U.S. Congress.China’s state-run Global Times newspaper responded with an editorial warning that any U.S. attempt to intervene in the islands would result in a “large-scale war”. Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.