Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo, Reuters
Posted at Oct 21 2016 03:03 PM
TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans private personal meetings with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Tokyo next week, three sources said, seeking to keep him onside with U.S.-led efforts to contain Beijing’s South China Sea ambitions.
With Duterte winding up a trip to China where he announced his “separation” from the United States, Abe faces a delicate task to promote the closely aligned security goals of Tokyo and Washington without pushing the Philippine leader deeper into Beijing’s embrace.
“Japan wants to explain its regional stance, including its thinking regarding the South China Sea,” said one of the sources. “Abe wants to make a connection with Duterte,” he added, asking not to be identified because he is not authorized to talk to the media.
Duterte’s apparent cozying up to Beijing has both Tokyo and Washington worried that the commitment under former Philippine President Benigno Aquino to stand up to China in the hotly disputed waterway is under threat.
Aquino angered China by lodging a case with an arbitration court in the Hague challenging the legitimacy of Beijing’s maritime claims in the resource-rich sea.
The ruling earlier this year emphatically favored Manila but was rejected by China, which has repeatedly warned the United States and Japan to stay out of the dispute.