Philippines and Japan sign historic defense pact as China looms in region

Published July 8, 2024
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and Japan signed on Monday a historic troop access pact that will deploy both countries’ military on each other’s soil, upgrading Manila and Tokyo’s defense relations amid what they perceive to be China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.The reciprocal access agreement (RAA), which both countries began negotiating in November, is seen to strengthen the defense cooperation of two long-time allies of the United States, which is looking to counter any potential threat from China. Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa signed the deal in a ceremony witnessed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday.The RAA provides the legal framework for the Philippines and Japan to send defense personnel to each other’s territory for joint exercises and other operations, such as coordinated maritime patrols.

Once in effect, the RAA will allow Japan to take part as a full member in the annual Balikatan military exercise conducted by the Philippines and the United States, in which Japan’s troops have previously participated as observers.

This deal also makes the Philippines the first in Asia to have this defense pact with Japan, after the East Asian nation forged similar agreements with Australia in 2022 and Britain in 2023.



RELATED: Japan can now deploy its forces to Philippines under landmark defence pact

  • The Reciprocal Access Agreement also allows Filipino forces to enter Japan for joint drills and is the first to be forged by Tokyo in Asia
Published July 8, 2024

Japan and the Philippines signed a key defence pact on Monday allowing the deployment of Japanese forces for joint military exercises, including live-fire drills, to the Southeast Asian nation that came under brutal Japanese occupation in World War II but is now building an alliance with Tokyo as they face an increasingly assertive China.


The Reciprocal Access Agreement, similarly allows Filipino forces to enter Japan for joint combat training, was signed by Philippine Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa in a Manila ceremony witnessed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr It would take effect after ratification by the countries’ legislatures, Philippine and Japanese officials said.


Kamikawa called the signing of the defence agreement “a groundbreaking achievement” that should further boost defence cooperation between Japan and the Philippines. “A free and open international order based on the rule of law is the foundation of regional peace and prosperity,” she said. “We would like to work closely with your country to maintain and strengthen this.”


Kamikawa and Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara are in Manila to hold talks with their Philippine counterparts on ways to further deepen relations, the Philippine government said in a statement.



RELATED: Japan, Philippines sign defense pact amid growing China concern


Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (back C) looks on as Japanese Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa (front L) and Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro (front R) sign the Reciprocal Access Agreement in Manila on July 8, 2024.
Published July 8, 2024

At the outset of the meeting, which was open to the media, Marcos said the new defense deal is “very important,” while Kamikawa described it as a “big achievement,” adding Japan would enhance cooperation with Marcos’s administration to strengthen a free and open international order.

Once the RAA takes effect, Japan will be able to participate as a full member in the large-scale Balikatan military exercise conducted annually by the Philippines and the United States near the Southeast Asian nation, which the SDF have previously joined in an observer capacity.

Tokyo and Manila, both U.S. allies, have been ramping up defense ties in recent years in response to Beijing’s growing activities and territorial claims in the East and South China seas.

Chinese coast guard ships used water cannons against Philippine vessels in March and April near disputed shoals in the resource-rich South China Sea. China claims sovereignty over almost the entire sea.

Chinese vessels have also repeatedly entered Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets controlled by Tokyo in the East China Sea that are claimed by Beijing, which calls them Diaoyu.

The signing of the RAA between Japan and the Philippines comes after Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Marcos agreed last November to start negotiations on the pact.




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Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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