Japan to unveil plans to provide patrol ships to Philippines

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to unveil at a meeting Saturday with his Philippine counterpart, President Benigno Aquino, Tokyo's plan to provide Manila with coast guard patrol ships to help it counter an increasingly assertive China at sea.

The Philippines and China are in dispute over their territorial claims in the South China Sea, prompting Manila to ask for patrol ships from Tokyo to beef up its coast guard.

Japan, for its part, seeks to boost its drive to check China's activity in the East China Sea, where Tokyo and Beijing are involved in a territorial dispute, by confirming Japan-Philippines cooperation in safeguarding their maritime rights and interests.

In a bid to help achieve peace on Mindanao, where the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group is in conflict with the government, Abe is expected to spell out a new package of official development assistance.

Abe is also expected to convey to Aquino Japan's readiness to work closely with the Philippines to strengthen their so-called "strategic partnership" given their shared "strategic interests" as well as fundamental values, according to a Japanese official.

Manila is the third and final leg of Abe's three-nation tour of Southeast Asia this week, which is aimed at deepening Japan's ties with the region.

The tour, which is the first trip abroad for Abe after his ruling coalition's victory in Sunday's parliamentary election, has also taken him to Malaysia and Singapore before returning to Japan later Saturday.