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Sunday, May 26, 2024

PBBM, Japan premier agree to boost defense cooperation

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President Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed Friday to bolster defense cooperation between their countries amid China’s expanding military presence in the region.

At their meeting in Malacanang, Kishida and Mr. Marcos confirmed they will begin negotiations on a new bilateral treaty, known as a reciprocal access agreement, to strengthen security ties and facilitate joint defense drills, government sources said.

It will be Japan’s first RAA with a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the third following pacts with Australia and Britain that took effect earlier this year.

Kishida arrived in Manila on Friday afternoon.

Kishida and Mr. Marcos also agreed to work together toward a special Japan-ASEAN summit in Tokyo in December. Japan is scheduled to host the gathering to commemorate 50 years of friendship and cooperation with the regional bloc.

On Saturday, Kishida is slated to become the first Japanese premier to deliver a speech to the Philippine Congress, in which he is certain to address Tokyo’s basic policy on Southeast Asian diplomacy for the future, the government said.

The premier vowed to strengthen bilateral relations with the Philippines to maintain a free and open international order based on the rule of law amid the complex geopolitical challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Japan and the Philippines are both maritime nations and strategic partners sharing fundamental principles and values,” Kishida said in his opening statement at the Palace.

“And as the international community faces complex crises, we would like to strengthen our cooperation with the Philippines to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law to ensure a world where human dignity is protected. I very much look forward to discussing issues with you in-depth today,” he added.

“Excellency, it is a pleasure to welcome you to Manila, to the Philippines,” President Marcos said to Kishida during his arrival ceremony inside Malacañang Palace.

Previously, the Philippines, Japan, and the United States agreed to a trilateral agreement on various fronts that commenced this year.

“Our meeting today builds upon the momentum of the recent past and we look forward to expanding cooperation with you, especially in key areas, such as economic development, development cooperation, and security cooperation,” the President stated.

“Our decades of cooperation have developed into a robust and Strategic Partnership built on trust, mutual respect, and common values,” he added.

Japan and the Philippines have been seeking to boost trilateral defense cooperation with the United States in response to China’s construction of artificial islands with military infrastructure in nearby waters and frequent intrusions into the territorial seas of others.

Tokyo has dismissed Beijing’s claim over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, while Manila has long been at odds with the communist country over its sovereignty claims over almost the entire South China Sea.

In late October, Manila and Beijing blamed one another over a collision involving their vessels in the South China Sea, home to some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

During his stay in Manila, Kishida is poised to promise to provide the Philippines with coastal surveillance radars under a new support framework for like-minded nations that share values such as the rule of law and respect for basic human rights, the sources said.

Japan has designated four Asia-Pacific countries—Bangladesh, Fiji, Malaysia, and the Philippines—as recipients of the grant program, called official security assistance, or OSA, earmarking 2 billion yen ($13 million) for the fiscal year through March 2024.

In his three-day tour to Southeast Asia, Kishida is also arranging to visit Kuala Lumpur to talk with his Malaysian counterpart Anwar Ibrahim on Sunday.

The two leaders may exchange views on ways to promote diplomatic and defense cooperation, as Kuala Lumpur, along with Manila and other ASEAN nations, has overlapping territorial claims with Beijing in the South China Sea, the sources said.

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