Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on January 15 called for a peaceful resolution to the South China Sea conflict and pledged Japan’s continued support for ASEAN, as the grouping turns 50 this year. Speaking after bilateral meetings with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Bogor, West Java, Mr Abe also said ASEAN will need Indonesia’s leadership to maintain its centrality, as the region confronts issues such as tensions in the South China Sea. Therefore, “Japan will strongly support President Joko”, he said. Without referring to China’s increasing assertiveness in the region, Mr Abe said the South China Sea issue had caught the attention of the international community as it directly affects peace and regional stability. “We reaffirm the importance of upholding the rule of law and promoting a peaceful resolution, and hence will undertake to work together at the ASEAN meetings and other international meetings that will be held this year,” he added. Mr Abe was in Indonesia as part of a four-nation tour – which includes stops in the Philippines, Australia and Vietnam – to boost economic and security ties between Japan and countries in the region.