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Japan said on Wednesday it was unable to immediately provide decommissioned patrol ships to Vietnam amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea, as its own coastguard was stretched by surveillance activities. As tensions mount between China and other claimants to the South China Sea, countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines are rushing to bolster their maritime patrols.Japan, itself locked in a bitter territorial spat with China, in March agreed to dispatch a research team to Vietnam as a step toward providing it with patrol ships.Asked about the possibility of providing used patrol ships to Vietnam to expedite the process, Prime Minister Shinto Abe told parliament: “Surveillance duties are getting heavier for the Japan Coast Guard.””Regrettably, our country is not in a situation where we can retire all the vessels that have reached such age.”

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