Japan-Philippines Summit: Tokyo, Manila Share Mutual Interest in Deterring Beijing

To deter China’s aggressive maritime expansion, it is of great significance that Japan and the Philippines are to expand their security cooperation.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has begun a visit to the Philippines and Malaysia, with the aim of confirming cooperation in preparation for a special summit between Japan and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to be held in Tokyo in December.

During his meeting with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the prime minister shared “serious concern” about the situation in the East and South China Seas, with China in mind, and the two leaders agreed that any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by coercion will not be tolerated.

In the South China Sea late last month, an incident occurred in which a China Coast Guard ship and another Chinese vessel collided with a Philippine patrol vessel and a Philippine military supply ship in Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). This was an extremely dangerous provocation by Beijing.

In waters around the Senkaku Islands, China has normalized intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters by China Coast Guard vessels. This situation in which China infringes on Japan’s sovereignty cannot be overlooked.

At the summit, the leaders agreed that Tokyo will provide free coastal surveillance radars to Manila in order to enhance the Philippine armed forces’ warning and monitoring capabilities.

This provision is the first application of official security assistance (OSA), a program established separately from official development assistance.

The OSA program is aimed at ensuring regional stability by supporting the militaries of mainly developing countries that share the same values, such as the rule of law, with Japan. The OSA must be used as a means to strengthen relations between Japan and friendly nations.

During the meeting, the two sides also agreed to begin negotiations for the conclusion of a reciprocal access agreement (RAA) to facilitate reciprocal visits between the Self-Defense Forces and the Philippine armed forces.

The purpose of the agreement is to simplify the procedures for immigration control and the entry of arms and ammunition into Japan and the Philippines when the respective units visit the other country. Japan has already concluded similar agreements with Australia and the United Kingdom.

Deepening defense cooperation between Japan and the Philippines, which are both allies of the United States, will strengthen the U.S. deterrence capability in Asia from the flanks. It should also lead to an expansion of joint training between the three nations.

In recent years, Japan’s aid to Southeast Asian countries has not been limited to official development assistance, as private-sector investment has become active.

The Philippine plan to build a railroad system around Manila has been financed by yen loans, and Japanese trading and other companies are also participating in the project. Cooperation with Malaysia is proceeding in the energy sector, including decarbonization, involving both the public and private sectors.

It is important for Japan and Southeast Asian countries to deepen mutually beneficial relations as equal partners.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 5, 2023)