Japan and Philippines sign defense agreement amid Chinese aggression

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
4 Min Read

Japan and the Philippines on Monday signed a bilateral defence agreement to facilitate joint exercises for closer security cooperation, amid China's growing assertiveness in regional waters.

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Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko and Philippine Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. signed the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) treaty documents in the presence of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. during a ceremony held at the Malacañan Palace, reported the state-run media of both countries – the Philippine News Agency (PNA) and Kyodo.

Before the signing of the new defense agreement, President Marcos met with Kamikawa and Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara.

Marcos described the agreement as a “very important agreement”, while Kamikawa said the signing of the RAA was “a major achievement” for the two countries that would strengthen bilateral ties.

The agreement, which will come into force once it is ratified by the respective legislative bodies of the Philippines and Japan, is expected to ease restrictions on personnel transfers between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Philippine military for joint exercises and disaster relief operations in each other’s country.

Once the agreement takes effect, Japan will be able to participate as a full member in the large-scale Balikatan military exercises held annually by the Philippines and the United States near the Southeast Asian nation, which the SDF has previously joined in an observer capacity, Kyodo reported.

The treaty comes after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Marcos agreed to begin negotiations last November.

According to the PNA, the Philippines has signed similar defense pacts with the United States and Australia, while another deal with France is also being considered.

Similarly, Japan also has an agreement with Australia and Britain and the US, called the Status of Forces Agreement.

Earlier this year on June 17, Chinese and Philippine sailors clashed near the Second Thomas Shoal, about 200 km off Palawan Island.

According to Al Jazeera, during that incident, the Chinese military injured Filipino marines in the South China Sea and damaged at least two military boats. In addition, the Filipino sailors also accused the Chinese coast guard of stealing and harming their equipment.

Meanwhile, later today, Kihara and Kamikawa will participate in the “two-plus-two” ministerial security talks with Teodoro and Philippines Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo.

According to a report by Al Jazeera, in June this year, General Romeo Broner, the Chief of Staff of the Philippines Armed Forces, criticized China over the repeated clashes between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea and accused China of “acting like pirates.” It is worth noting that incidents of clashes in the South China Sea continued even after an international tribunal said in 2016 that its claim had “no legal basis.”

China has made expansionist claims to almost the entire South China Sea, claiming that it falls under the nine-dash line. The same news report also claimed that the country has also built artificial islands and military outposts near the reef.

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