‘Reciprocal’ troop pact with Japan in the works

The Philippines hopes to reach an agreement with Japan “at the soonest possible time” on allowing the deployment of military forces on each other’s soil, the Philippine defence secretary said.

The two close US allies have agreed to negotiate a reciprocal access agreement (RAA) amid growing tensions in the region.

Both countries have maritime territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.

“We look forward to this reciprocal access agreement between both our countries given the commitment of the Japanese government and the Philippine government to preserve the rules-based international order and international law,” Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro told a press briefing on Monday.

Once an agreement is reached, it would have to be submitted to the Philippine Senate and Japanese legislature for ratification, Teodoro said.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, on a visit to the Philippines on the weekend, said his country, the Philippines and the US were cooperating to “protect the freedom” of the South China Sea.

Teodoro was speaking on the sidelines of a ceremony at a military base, north of the capital, which is one of nine bases the US has been given access to under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement.

The US has said it would allocate US$100mil (RM465mil) for infrastructure improvements at the sites.

“The United States is helping the Philippine government in hardening its defensive posture to include its assertion of its legitimate rights in the West Philippine Sea,” Teodoro said, referring to an area where tension has been rising between the Philippines and China over an over-lapping territorial claim.

The Philippines was “not seeking conflict”, he added. — Reuters

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