Japan, Philippines Agree on More Maritime Cooperation to Detect Suspicious Ships

Armed Forces of the Philippines via AP
A Chinese militia ship, top, is seen near a Philippine Coast Guard ship as they approach the Second Thomas Shoal in a disputed part of the South China Sea on Oct. 22.

Japan and the Philippines have agreed to help one another improve their “maritime domain awareness” by pooling oceanographic data to detect suspicious ships, among other objectives, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The heads of the Japan and Philippine coast guards signed a memorandum outlining the agreement in Tokyo on Sunday.

The aim is to share data on ship movements and boost maritime security cooperation, bearing in mind China’s continued hegemonic moves in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

The Japan Coast Guard has inked similar memorandums with the United States, France and Australia since 2021, but this is the first of its kind with a Southeast Asian nation, many of which are situated at important points along Japan’s sea lanes.

The Philippines, for its part, has been embroiled in a territorial dispute with China over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and other territories.

The memorandum includes details on how the two nations will share data on movements of suspicious ships and third country ships that could be security threats for Japan and the Philippines, as well as observational data for disasters and other abnormal events. It also lists measures for maintaining secrecy.

As for joint drills, Japan and the Philippines agreed to make it easier to conduct multinational exercises for maritime security. In June this year, the coast guards of Japan, the United States and the Philippines conducted their first joint drill off Manila Bay.

To realize a free and open Indo-Pacific, the Japanese government has provided support to maritime authorities of Asian countries and Pacific island nations both in materiel and know-how, encouraging them to improve security in their waters.

The support is aimed at ensuring the safety of sea lanes by tightening cooperation among coastal nations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.