State­ment seen as sin­gling out China’s air zone

ASEAN-Ja­pan sum­mit ad­dresses ‘free­dom of over­flight’, con­nec­tiv­ity

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SUNDAY NEWS - By CAI HONG in Tokyo and ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing

While the state­ment is­sued by the joint ASEAN- Ja­pan sum­mit on Satur­day did not specif­i­cally men­tion any coun­try, the phrase “free­dom of over­flight” is un­der­stood as an im­plicit ref­er­ence to China’s re­cently es­tab­lished air de­fense iden­ti­fi­ca­tion zone.

The state­ment said the ASEAN and Ja­pan have agreed to strengthen co­op­er­a­tion re­gard­ing air and mar­itime link­ages, and to rec­og­nize the ben­e­fits of en­hanced con­nec­tiv­ity among the coun­tries.

The coun­tries will “en­hance co­op­er­a­tion in en­sur­ing the free­dom of over­flight and civil avi­a­tion safety in ac­cor­dance with the uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized prin­ci­ples of in­ter­na­tional law”, it said.

At the sum­mit and on its side­lines, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe sought to gen­er­ate an un­der­stand­ing of Ja­pan’s po­si­tion on China’s ADIZ among the ASEAN coun­tries.

But not all lead­ers shared his view.

Brunei’s Sultan Has­sanal Bolkiah said on Fri­day — the open­ing day of the sum­mit, which ends on Sun­day — that the is­sue should be re­solved through con­sul­ta­tions be­tween Ja­pan and China.

Lu Yaodong, di­rec­tor of the Ja­panese diplo­macy depart­ment of the In­sti­tute of Ja­pan Stud­ies un­der the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences, said China’s South­east Asian neigh­bors — most of which have strong re­la­tion­ships with China — hope con­flicts be­tween China and Ja­pan will be re­solved.

“The grow­ing an­tag­o­nism be­tween Tokyo and Bei­jing ac­tu­ally doesn’t serve their in­ter­ests,” Lu said.

“They have their own opin­ions … on rel­e­vant is­sues.”

Ja­panese diplo­mats had been ne­go­ti­at­ing with their ASEAN coun­ter­parts to in­clude a sharp ref­er­ence to China’s ADIZ in the joint state­ment.

Abe suc­ceeded in get­ting his pro­posed lan­guage about a “proac­tive con­tri­bu­tion to peace” in­cor­po­rated into the state­ment.

Ja­pan has been play­ing up what it calls Bei­jing’s in­ten­tion to es­tab­lish an ADIZ in the South China Sea.

Ja­pan and Malaysia agreed to en­hance mar­itime se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion. The two coun­tries staged the first-ever joint ex­er­cise be­tween their mar­itime se­cu­rity or­ga­ni­za­tions in Septem­ber.

Ja­pan will con­trib­ute $100 mil­lion to the Ja­pan-ASEAN in­te­gra­tion fund. The move is in­tended to boost the coun­tries’ coast guards’ ca­pac­i­ty­build­ing and en­hance the links be­tween the re­gion’s mar­itime and con­ti­nen­tal na­tions, Ja­pan’s for­eign min­istry said.

Jiang Ruip­ing, an ex­pert on the Ja­panese econ­omy and China For­eign Af­fairs Univer­sity’s vice-pres­i­dent, said the Ja­panese cab­i­net is en­hanc­ing eco­nomic re­la­tions with the ASEAN partly out of fear of China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in the re­gion.

“All of East Asia is un­der­go­ing rapid de­vel­op­ment,” Jiang said.

“Tokyo be­lieves China is grad­u­ally re­plac­ing the in­flu­ence of Ja­pan and even the United States in the re­gion.”

Ja­pan is at­tempt­ing to gain more bar­gain­ing chips for the loom­ing stand­off over China’s Diaoyu Is­lands. It is high­light­ing shared strate­gic in­ter­est with par­ties in­volved in the South China Sea is­sue, in­clud­ing the Philip­pines, to form an al­liance based on “pro­tect­ing the or­der on the high seas” to con­tain China, Jiang added.

Since as­sum­ing of­fice 11 months ago, Abe has vis­ited all 10 ASEAN coun­tries — Brunei, Cambodia, In­done­sia, Laos, Malaysia, Myan­mar, the Philip­pines, Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land and Viet­nam.

Ja­pan’s gov­ern­ment hopes to demon­strate its com­mit­ment to the fast-grow­ing, re­sourcerich re­gion. Diplo­matic ties with South­east Asia have been a ma­jor theme of Ja­panese pol­icy be­cause the re­gion is “Ja­pan’s tra­di­tional mar­ket”, Lu said.

Al­though Ja­pan’s hawk­ish prime min­is­ter has taken a year to deepen his coun­try’s re­la­tions with the ASEAN, “(Ja­pan’s) diplo­matic dead­lock with China and South Korea is far from over”, Lu said. Con­tact the writ­ers at cai­hong@chi­nadaily.com.cn and zhangyunbi@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

KOJI SASAHARA / AFP

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe (right) sneezes as Brunei’s Sultan Has­sanal Bolkiah, chair­man of the ASEAN-Ja­pan sum­mit, looks on dur­ing a joint news an­nounce­ment at the Akasaka State guest­house in Tokyo on Satur­day.

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