2013-12-14 18:59:02

Japan, SE Asia call for ‘freedom of overflight’

(Vatican Radio) Southeast Asian nations and Japan have sent a message of defiance to China over what they perceive as Beijing's ambitions to control regional sea and airspace.

Japanese and Southeast Asian heads of government agreed a statement underscoring the importance of free flight over international waters.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that should be respected as a "general principle in international law."

It was seen as a rebuke for China, which recently declared much of the East China Sea to be a zone in which foreign aircraft must check in and potentially obey orders from Beijing.

Nations meeting here in Tokyo also said they oppose attempts to annex international waters or to take possession of islands administered by another nation: Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines are among those currently contesting claims by China.

The U.S. says one of its warships last week had to take emergency action when a Chinese warship appeared to take a collision course towards it.

Meanwhile, the United States secretary of state is in Vietnam, where he promised greater U.S. assistance. But John Kerry also called for Vietnam to respect civil rights -- including freedom of religion. Visiting Ho Chi Minh City, the secretary of state walked from his hotel to attend Mass at the city's Catholic cathedral.

He said Vietnam can strengthen its society through greater openness.

Listen to Alastair Wanklyn’s report: RealAudioMP3

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