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Japan, the Philippines to strengthen security ties

The defence ministries of Japan and the Philippines, on 7 April, announced to strengthen security cooperation and focus on joint drills between the armed forces. The joint decision was arrived at amid the increasing dominant stance of China in the region.

On Thursday, the Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi and his Philippine counterpart, Delfin Lorenzana met in Tokyo and expressed concern over the security situation in Europe and its likely implications in the Indo-Pacific. The leaders agreed to denounce any attempts to change the status quo by force as unacceptable. The joint communique however did not identify China in the statement.

Japan in recent months has already expanded joint drills with the US and other countries, including Australia, India, France, Britain, and Germany. These nations have also expressed concern over China’s assertion and territorial claims in the region. The South-East Asian maritime routes are one of the busiest sea lanes. 

Strategically, Japan is more concerned about increased Chinese military and coast guard activities in the East China Sea. China has been claiming rights over the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands. Chinese refer to these islands as Diaoyu. Like Japan, the Philippines has a dispute over territorial claims with China in the South China Sea. Beijing has been building military outposts on artificial islands in the region.

According to a Japanese Defence Ministry statement yesterday, their officials had spotted a Chinese Y-9 electronic warfare aircraft flying over the Sakishima islands. However, they also clarified that the aircraft did not violate Japanese airspace.

Between Japan and the Philippines, they agreed to increase cooperation in defence equipment and technology transfer between the two countries. In 2020, Japan and the Philippines had decided that Japan would export air radar systems to the Philippine military.

Talks between the defence ministers between Tokyo and Manila come two days ahead of “two-plus-two” security talks, where the countries’ foreign ministers are also involved.

On 9 April, the Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is going to meet his Philippine counterpart Teodoro Locsin and they will discuss various security issues, bilateral as well as regional. 

Other than Japan and the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei have been locked in territorial disputes with China on the busy sea route for decades.