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Japan, Philippines eye deeper defence ties as China rises

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TOKYO (AFP): Japan and the Philippines were set to demonstrate their deepening defence ties at summit talks Friday as the two US allies work to form a united front against China's increasing assertiveness.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Benigno Aquino will jointly address the media following their meeting in Tokyo, at which they are expected to affirm their commitment to ensuring maritime security in the South China Sea.

Aquino has passionately courted Japan, along with the United States, to help serve as a counterbalance to China's claims to almost the entirety of the sea, a major global shipping route believed to be home to oil and gas reserves.

Beijing has been aggressively constructing artificial islands, including with what appear to be military-supporting facilities, such as runways -- aggravating regional tensions and drawing US demands to stop.

Tokyo and Manila are shoring up military and political ties, with a joint naval drill last month in the South China Sea. Washington has also sent ships and planes to survey the waters.

Abe has long criticised China's attempts to change the status quo by force, mindful of Japan's own territorial dispute with Beijing over islands in the East China Sea that are the destination for Chinese paramilitary hardware.

While ties between Tokyo and Beijing have warmed a little in recent months, including direct talks between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping, relations have been icy for years.

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