Asia PacificPolitics

Philippines, Japan to Hold Security Talks Next Month

Japan and the Philippines will hold high-level defense talks next month, Manila said Friday, as the two countries seek to boost ties in the face of an increasingly confrontational China.

Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara and Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa will discuss “bilateral and defence and security issues affecting the region” at the July 8 meeting in Manila, a Philippine foreign affairs department statement said.

The talks follow escalating confrontations at sea between Chinese and Philippine ships as Beijing steps up efforts to push its claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.

Tokyo and Beijing are also at loggerheads over Japan-controlled disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Japan, which occupied the Philippines during World War II, is negotiating a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) with Manila that would allow the countries to deploy troops on each other’s territory.

Ex-Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, now a ruling-party member of the Japanese parliament, said Friday he hoped negotiations on the defense pact would “make rapid progress” at next month’s meeting.

“We recognise the need to further deepen security and defence cooperation between our two countries,” Onodora told a press conference on the last day of a five-day visit to Manila.

Onodera said he had met with National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, Defense Minister Gilberto Teodoro, and Foreign Secretary Eduardo Manalo to reiterate Japan’s commitment to a strategic defense partnership with the Philippines.

“Japan is committed, ready to provide necessary assets to Philippines to protect Philippine security,” said Yoshiaki Wada, another member of Onoda’s parliamentary delegation.

Tokyo has been building the newest and largest ships of the Philippine Coast Guard, a key element of Manila’s efforts to assert its sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Tokyo’s Maritime Self-Defense Force also held joint naval and air drills with the United States, Australia, and the Philippines in the strategic waterway in April.

The drills aimed to demonstrate what the participants said was their “collective commitment to strengthen regional and international cooperation in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

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