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Aquino, Japan prime minister to meet amid China row

By Louis Bacani

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MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III will travel to Japan next week to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Presidential Communication Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino will go to Japan on June 24 upon Abe's invitation. 

"The President and the Prime Minister will hold a summit meeting over lunch at the Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo," Coloma said at a televised press briefing.

Coloma said there is still no information on the agenda of the meeting between the two Asian leaders.

After the meeting, Coloma said Aquino will head to Hiroshima to deliver the keynote speech at the Japan International Cooperation Agency conference.

Aquino's visit to Japan also comes in the wake of a meeting between Manila and Tokyo to make the Philippines the preferred manufacturing hub in Southeast Asia.

Both Japan and the Philippines are embroiled in territorial disputes with China over the East China Sea and the South China Sea, respectively.

Aquino and Abe had agreed to push for freedom of navigation and free passage through international airspace to promote peace and stability in the region.

“We reiterated our commitment to uphold the rule of law, to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes and to ensure freedom of flight in international airspace,” Aquino said in December 2013.

Aquino has earlier accused China of violating an informal maritime code of conduct with its reported land reclamation efforts on some of the contested territories.

Abe, on the other hand, recently said that Japan would give its "utmost support" to Southeast Asian countries locked in maritime disputes with China.

Insisting that it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the contested waters, China has repeatedly urged the Philippines and Japan to stop stirring trouble.

United States President Barack Obama visited both countries last April in his attempt to reassure them of American support.

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