Japan, U.S., Philippines Agree to Strengthen Security Ties amid Tensions over China, N. Korea

Courtesy of the Cabinet Secretariat
From left, Jake Sullivan of the United States, Takeo Akiba of Japan and Eduardo Ano of the Philippines pose for a photo during their meeting in Tokyo on Friday.

TOKYO (AP) — The national security advisers of the United States, Japan and the Philippines held their first joint talks Friday and agreed to strengthen their defense cooperation, as Washington and its partners reinforce their alliances to adapt to growing tensions over North Korea, China and Ukraine, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he and his Japanese and Philippine counterparts discussed the “turbulent regional security environment and how we can collectively work to enhance peace and stability” in areas including freedom of navigation and economic security.

Sullivan, Takeo Akiba of Japan and Eduardo Ano of the Philippines said in a joint statement that they emphasized the importance of enhancing three-way cooperation, building on alliances between Japan and the U.S. and between the Philippines and the U.S. to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, especially in the Taiwan Strait.

Sullivan said the “path-breaking” new trilateral framework is part of multiple alliances involving the United States in the Indo-Pacific region, including three-way cooperation with Japan and South Korea and the Quad security dialogue with Australia, India and Japan.

“I would say different groupings may have different points of priority and emphasis, but actually what we are finding is, the agenda is expanding because in a way the world is shrinking. And all of the problems everywhere are coming to touch every country in this area,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is not expected to make a significant breakthrough during his visit on Sunday to China, while Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington later in the week “will mark a transformational moment in U.S.-India relations.”

The three security advisers discussed opportunities for joint naval exercises in Indo-Pacific waters and agreed to deepen military cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, they said.

During a visit to Tokyo by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in February, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged 600 billion yen ($4.3 billion) in development aid and private investment. The two leaders agreed to have their militaries cooperate in disaster relief operations in the Philippines, seen as a step toward a pact allowing their forces to visit and train on each other’s soil.

On Thursday, Sullivan and Akiba held a separate three-way meeting with their South Korean counterpart, Cho Tae-yong, which Sullivan said had a “profound impact” on strengthening their cooperation following a recent improvement in Japan-South Korea ties.

Japan in December adopted a new National Security Strategy in which it set a goal of doubling its defense spending to 43 trillion yen ($310 billion) over the next five years to fund a military buildup, including developing a strike capability in a major break from its self-defense-only policy long observed under its post-World War II pacifist constitution.

Under the new strategy, Japan began security assistance for the militaries of developing nations, primarily in the Indo-Pacific region, and is likely to provide Japanese-made non-lethal equipment such as radar, antennas, small patrol boats and improvements to infrastructure such as ports. The Philippines is a major candidate.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei are locked in tense territorial standoffs over the South China Sea. The United States has no claims to the waters, but says freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes in the key international waterway are in its national interest.

Sullivan said he and Akiba and Ano decided to meet again in the coming months to expand their cooperation and information sharing.