Japan defence minister to visit Vietnam over South China Sea dispute


Japan’s Defence Minister Gen Nakatani will travel to Vietnam in early November to discuss China’s territorial claims in disputed parts of the South China Sea, Japanese media reported Friday.

Nakatani’s talks with counterpart Phung Quang Thanh will come amid rising tensions in the region after the United States told South-East Asian countries that it would deploy warships to what China claims as its territorial waters in disputed areas of the sea, Kyodo News agency reported, citing Japanese diplomatic sources.

During the meeting, Nakatani is also expected to explain Japan’s laws enacted in late September that will expand the role of the military abroad, Kyodo said.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all have competing claims with China over the key shipping lane and potentially resource-rich area.

The Japanese minister is also likely to discuss his country’s support for Vietnam’s efforts to build up its own military capacity. During his visit, he is thought likely to stop by a naval base in Cam Ranh Bay in central Vietnam, which faces the South China Sea.

Nakatani has expressed interest in attending a meeting of defence chiefs from the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations plus Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States, to be held November 3 to 5 in Malaysia.

The Vietnam visit would follow that meeting, the report said.