MANILA: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have affirmed their agreement on the importance of the US contribution to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region ahead of the inauguration of Donald Trump amid uncertainty about the incoming US president's foreign policy.
Meeting for the second day in Duterte's hometown of Davao in the southern Philippines, the two leaders also touched on the issue of China's military buildup in the South China Sea, confirming a policy to resolve disputes under the rule of law, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.
The Philippines has conflicting claims with China in the disputed waters along with four other governments.
Duterte told Abe he was ready to have direct talks with China, according to the ministry. He has previously suggested setting aside territorial disputes with Beijing, opting to promote economic cooperation with the world's second-largest economy.
Abe said he hoped the Philippines and China would act based on the ruling last July of the UN-backed tribunal in The Hague which concluded that China's claim over almost the entire South China Sea had no legal basis. China has not accepted the decision in the case brought by Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino.
With the Philippines assuming the chairmanship of Asean this year, Abe said in the talks with Duterte that he hoped to coordinate with Manila on stressing the principle of the rule of law at a series of Asean-related meetings, which culminates with a summit also involving leaders from the US, Japan and China, the ministry said.
Abe and Duterte shared the view that continued US commitment to the Asia-Pacific region was needed. Duterte reacted angrily last year when the administration of US President Barack Obama aired concerns about extrajudicial killings in Duterte's anti-drug campaign.
However, the japanese Foreign Ministry said Duterte vowed on Friday to continue his country's cooperation with the United States under a bilateral alliance.
Earlier in Manila, the two leaders agreed on economic and security cooperation amid China's growing assertiveness in the region. Abe also pledged a public-private package of 1 trillion yen (US$8.7 billion) to spur infrastructure development in the Philippines, including for promoting agricultural business in Mindanao.
Davao is home to many Filipinos of Japanese descent and is a recipient of Japanese-funded projects for development. Japan has a consular office there.
China, meanwhile, is also seeking to increase its presence in the area, saying last October that it would open a diplomatic mission in the city, where Duterte served as mayor for many years before running for president.
The Philippines was Abe's first stop on a six-day overseas trip. He left Davao on Friday for Australia, and will also travel to Indonesia and Vietnam before returning home on Tuesday.