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Japan, Vietnam to seek peaceful solution of S. China Sea dispute

Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya (L) and his Vietnamese counterpart Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich shake hands at the Vietnamese Defense Ministry in Hanoi on May 2, 2019. (Kyodo)

HANOI (Kyodo) -- The Japanese and Vietnamese defense ministers agreed Thursday to seek a peaceful resolution for the Southeast Asian country's territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, according to Japanese ministry officials.

"Japan hopes to further deepen ties with Vietnam in the era of Reiwa," Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said at the outset of talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Ngo Xuan Lich in Hanoi, referring to Japan's new imperial era under Emperor Naruhito who ascended the throne Wednesday.

Lich expressed his congratulations over the succession and told Iwaya that he hopes the Japanese defense minister's visit to Vietnam will "contribute to pushing bilateral defense ties to a new stage."

Tensions remain high in the South China Sea, with China pushing its claims to almost the entire body of water, a vital shipping lane with rich fishing grounds and possibly large oil and natural gas deposits. Vietnam as well as Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan claim parts of the waters.

During the talks, Iwaya explained Japan's latest national defense guidelines endorsed in December last year, which called China's military activities in the South China Sea and surrounding waters "a serious security concern for the region including Japan and for the international community."

Japan is locked in a territorial dispute with China in the East China Sea over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu.

The discussions in the Vietnamese capital were the first official talks between the two countries' defense ministers since June last year.

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