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Japan, Philippines form partnership

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 5:36 p.m.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (right) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lead a ceremonial toast during a luncheon at Malacanang Palace Saturday, July 27, 2013 in Manila.

MANILA — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged support for Philippine maritime forces on Saturday as both countries confront China in separate territorial disputes.

Following a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III in the Philippine capital, Abe announced that Japan will provide a concessional loan to build 10 coast guard patrol boats for the Philippines.

The Philippines has received two coast guard ships from the United States as it seeks to build a deterrent naval force after China took control of a disputed shoal off the northwestern Philippines last year.

China's assertiveness to lay claim to most of the South China Sea after decades of relative calm has alarmed Manila, which has turned to the United Nations to seek international arbitration. Beijing has indicated it won't cooperate.

In a statement issued after their meeting, Aquino said that the two leaders reviewed security challenges both countries face and promised to cooperate to push for “responsible action from international players,” in a reference to China.

He said that maritime cooperation with Japan was a pillar of the countries' strategic partnership.

Abe said that a key element of Japan's efforts to revive its economy and promote regional peace and security lies in closer relations with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEAN includes the Philippines and Vietnam, both of which have disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Abe's trip to Manila was the last leg of a three-day visit to Southeast Asia that also took him to Malaysia and Singapore.

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