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Japan, Vietnam vow to cooperate on regional challenges
by Staff Writers
Hanoi (AFP) Jan 16, 2013

Visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) shakes hands with Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang as they meet at the presidential palace in Hanoi on January 16, 2013. Abe is here for a one-day official visit, the first leg of an Southeast Asian trip which will lead him also to Indonesia and Thailand. Photo courtesy AFP.

Vietnam and Japan must "play a more active role" in maintaining regional peace and security, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday, in the face of growing maritime tensions with China.

The two countries, both locked in separate bitter disputes with Beijing over contested islands in the resource-rich South China Sea, said they would work towards closer cooperation after talks in Hanoi on Wednesday.

Citing "challenging developments" in the Asia-Pacific, Abe -- on his first overseas trip since winning power -- said the two countries should deepen their relationship.

They "should increase political and security dialogues and work together," Abe told reporters through a translator after closed-door talks with his Vietnamese counterpart.

The countries have "agreed to promote a strategic partnership (and) play a more active role in peace and security in the region", he added.

Abe, who scored a handsome election win last month after talking tough on a territorial dispute with China, met Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and other top officials.

He will spend less than 24 hours in the communist state before heading to Thailand and Indonesia in an attempt to bolster relations with the vibrant economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc.

Dung told a joint press briefing the two countries wanted all regional disputes to be resolved "through peaceful negotiations on the basis of international law". He did not elaborate.

The two nations are major trade partners and Japan is Vietnam's largest aid donor.

Political and security ties are also growing as Japan seeks to shore up regional relationships as a counterweight to an increasingly confident China.

Japan and China are locked in a bitter battle over the sovereignty of the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, which Beijing calls the Diaoyus.

Vietnam and China have competing claims to the Paracel and Spratley Islands, and regularly trade diplomatic barbs over sovereignty and fishing rights in the contested waters around the archipelagos.

China is also involved in an acrimonious territorial dispute with the Philippines over parts of the South China Sea.

Abe and Dung also announced a new $500 million pledge of aid Wednesday, without specifying what it was for.

Last year Japan became the largest single foreign investor in Vietnam, with major investments in banking, export-orientated manufacturing and consumer goods as Japanese companies eye the rapidly-expanding middle class.

US, Myanmar hold non-proliferation talks
Yangon (AFP) Jan 16, 2013 - US nuclear officials have held talks with their counterparts in Myanmar, weeks after the former pariah nation agreed new safeguards allowing inspections of suspected atomic sites, the US Embassy said Wednesday.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, was suspected of pursuing military and nuclear cooperation with Pyongyang during long years of junta rule that ended last year, prompting an easing of many international sanctions including by the US.

But amid the warming of ties with Washington, Myanmar's government in November vowed to sign the IAEA's "additional protocol", which grants the UN agency access to possible undeclared activities.

Representatives from the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security unit met with atomic officials from Myanmar's Ministry of Science and Technology in Naypyidaw between January 9-11, the US embassy said in a statement.

"The purpose of the workshop was to promote awareness of the international safeguards system," it said, adding US Ambassador Derek Mitchell had urged both parties to boost "cooperation in support of the nuclear non-proliferation regime".

An official from the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was also present during the workshop.

Discussions with the Americans were "the first step of many that we have to take", Khin Maung Latt of Myanmar's Department of Atomic Energy told AFP on Wednesday, without giving details of how close the measure was to fruition.

Allegations of nuclear cooperation between Myanmar and North Korea have been a lingering concern for Washington.

Thein Sein's government has denied any covert effort to obtain nuclear weapons technology from North Korea, which is locked in an ongoing atomic showdown with the US.


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