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Monday, July 15th, 2024

Japan and Philippines sign defense agreement amid China’s aggression

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.

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, according to reports from the two countries’ state-run media — 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 great 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 with France is being considered.

Similarly, Japan has an agreement with Australia and Britain and also with 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 naval personnel and damaged at least two military boats in the South China Sea. Additionally, the Filipino sailors also accused the Chinese coast guard of stealing and harming their equipment.

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

According to a report by Al Jazeera, in June this year, General Romeo Broner, Chief of Staff of the Philippines Armed Forces, criticised 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 have continued even after an international tribunal in 2016 said its claim had “no legal basis”.

China has made expansionist claims to almost the entire South China Sea, claiming that it falls within 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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