Japanese defense minister, Thai premier discuss S. China Sea

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera discussed security issues Wednesday with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who doubles as Thailand's defense minister, including simmering disputes in the South China Sea between China and some ASEAN members, a Thai government spokesman said.

The spokesman, Theerat Ratanasewi, said both sides expressed hope for concrete progress on the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, in order to move forward talks on forging a legally binding code of conduct to prevent territorial and maritime disputes from flaring up.

The declaration, signed by the foreign ministers of China and ASEAN in 2002, urges claimants to resolve their disputes peacefully "without resorting to the threat or use of force" and to "exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes."

But tensions in the sea have continued and even increased since 2002, especially between China and the Philippines.

Onodera told reporters after the meeting that he hoped to see the problems in the South China Sea resolved in accordance with the rule of law and through dialogue.

Japan's position is that all parties to the disputes should clarify their claims in accordance with international law, including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, and refrain from taking coercive and unilateral actions to change the status quo.

Theerat said the Japanese defense chief praised Thailand's role as the coordinator of talks between ASEAN and China, saying that by doing so it is playing an important role in maintaining peace and security in East Asia.

On bilateral ties, he said, Yingluck and Onodera discussed the dispatch of Thai military personnel to study at National Defense Academy of Japan.

More than 200 Thai military officials have studied there to date, while many Japanese officials have studied at the Army Command and General Staff College in Thailand, according to the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok.

Onodera thanked Thailand for supporting Japan's successful bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2020.

The defense minister was in Bangkok on the second leg of his five-day trip to Vietnam and Thailand, which started Sunday, to boost security cooperation, particularly maritime security.