Japan and the Philippines vowed closer military cooperation via more complex, high-level joint exercises and intelligence sharing on Saturday, voicing “serious concern” over tensions in the East and South China Seas.
Their first meeting under the “two-plus-two” arrangement, involving their foreign and defence ministers, came amid heightened concerns over the war in Ukraine and the potential spillover effect in regional waters.
Japan and the Philippines are strategic partners, while both countries are also security allies of the United States.
In a joint statement after the meeting, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi as well as their Philippine counterparts Teodoro Locsin and Delfin Lorenzana criticised the invasion of Ukraine, while calling for an immediate ceasefire as the humanitarian crisis worsens.
“This aggression jeopardises the foundation of the international order which does not accept any unilateral change of the internationally recognised borders through the use of force, thus affecting not only Europe but also Asia,” they said.
Both countries, which deem China’s military assertiveness and expansionism as a grave security threat, “expressed serious concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly opposed actions that may increase tensions”.
Their common view of an increasingly severe security environment has brought the two countries together defensively, with the four ministers vowing to further step up bilateral cooperation.
On Saturday, they agreed to consider new frameworks that can help facilitate reciprocal military visits and provision of logistical supplies and services.
Among the pacts under deliberation is the Reciprocal Access Agreement, which can pave the way for more complex high-level joint drills and interoperability of their militaries.
Japan has such a deal with only two countries – the US and Australia – and is working to seal similar arrangements with Britain and France.
Japan and the Philippines will likewise consider a military logistics pact known as the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement, which will allow Japan to refuel and resupply its ships at Philippine naval bases and vice versa.
This follows a defence agreement in January 2015, after which the two countries have conducted nearly 20 joint naval drills. Last year, they also held joint air force exercises.
Japan has also transferred defence and technology equipment to help the Philippines increase its patrols in the South China Sea, where China has made sweeping maritime territorial claims.
The four ministers also vowed to boost cooperation in the areas of economic security and cyber security, as they denounced the “use of economic coercion to achieve political ends” and the “misuse and abuse of critical and emerging technologies”.
The Philippines is the ninth country with which Japan has such a “two-plus-two” framework. The others are Australia, Britain, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Russia and the US.
THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK