TOKYO (AP) — Japan and the Philippines on Saturday agreed to start talks on a possible defense deal that would allow closer cooperation between their militaries amid regional tensions with China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and their Philippine counterparts Teodoro Locsin and Delfin Lorenzana, at their first so-called “2+2” security meeting, agreed to start formal talks on a possible mutual access deal — a defense pact that would it allow their troops to visit each other’s countries for training and exchange defense equipment to improve interoperability and cooperation.
Japan and the Philippines, both US allies, have intensified their joint exercises and defense cooperation in recent years. In 2020, Tokyo and Manila agreed to export Japanese airborne radar systems to the Philippine military.
On Saturday, the four ministers firmly opposed “measures that could increase tensions” in the East and South China Seas and reiterated their commitment to a rules-based approach to resolving competing claims under international law. They also said Russia’s aggression in Ukraine affects not only Europe, but also Asia within the framework of the international order, which does not accept unilateral change of internationally recognized borders by force.
Although it was implicitly clear that China was their main concern, they carefully avoided naming that country.
“We agreed that it is time to explore the possibility of further expanding our defense cooperation and activities” and to explore ways to build capacity and capabilities “to address issues of common concern,” Lorenzana said at a joint press conference after the talks.
Kishi said the first “2+2” meeting marked “the beginning of the two countries’ efforts to further deepen their security ties.”
In January, Japan signed a defense cooperation pact with Australia – the first such agreement for Canberra apart from the United States, which is Japan’s only ally.
Japan has significantly expanded security talks and joint exercises in recent years with the US and other partners, who share its concerns about China’s assertion of its territorial claims in the region, which hosts some of the world’s busiest sea lanes.
Japan is particularly concerned about Chinese military and coast guard activities in the East China Sea near the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which China also claims and calls Diaoyu.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have been locked in an increasingly tense territorial standoff on the busy South China Sea waterway for decades.
Saturday’s agreement between Japan and the Philippines came a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping told outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that Beijing and Manila have properly managed their disputes in the South China Sea and that, according to China, “regional security will not be strengthened.” of military alliances can be achieved”. official Xinhua News Agency.