On Friday, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida embarked on a two-day visit to the Philippines. During his visit, he is anticipated to reveal a security assistance package and forthcoming discussions regarding a defense agreement. The aim is to enhance Tokyo’s alliances in response to China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
Kishida stated that he and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr have reached an agreement to collaborate closely with the United States. They also expressed shared concerns, without explicitly naming China, about “unacceptable” efforts to “unilaterally alter the existing conditions through the use of force” in the East and South China Seas.
Kishida is scheduled to hold talks with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the presidential palace, and their agenda will encompass various matters, including the South China Sea, an area where Manila and Beijing have experienced multiple standoffs. Ahead of Kishida’s visit, Marcos’ office indicated that the specific topics to be addressed include the West Philippine Sea, trade and investment, as well as Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA).
The Philippines and Japan, both strong Asian allies of the United States, have adopted a firm stance against what they perceive as aggressive actions by Chinese ships in the context of longstanding disputes concerning maritime sovereignty.
China asserts its territorial claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, and its expanding military presence in the region has raised apprehensions in Japan and the Western world. To safeguard freedom of navigation, the United States conducts routine air and naval patrols in the area.
Before the visit, the Japanese defense ministry disclosed the provision of the initial air surveillance radar system to the Philippine military. This delivery is by a contract established in 2020 between the Philippine Defense Department and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
Japan’s move to broaden its international aid to encompass military-related initiatives comes after its announcement in December of the previous year to double defense spending over five years. This decision is driven by the need to address regional security concerns stemming from China and the unpredictability of North Korea. Before the visit, the Japanese defense ministry revealed the delivery of the initial air surveillance radar system to the Philippine military by a contract from 2020.