Philippines, Japan ‘very close’ to signing military cooperation pact

MANILA: Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr (pic) said the Philippines and Japan are “very close to signing” the reciprocal access agreement (RAA) that will facilitate military cooperation, such as the entry of troops for training and disaster relief operations and easier transfer of equipment for the visiting force.

“It’s going to be signed,” the defence chief told reporters on the sidelines of the Swedish National Day reception last week, but declined to give a timeline.

The access deal will be signed in July during a meeting of foreign and defence ministers from both sides in Manila, according to a report from Kyodo News last month.

The Philippines has the same agreement with the United States and Australia, while Japan has similar deals with the United Kingdom and Australia.

Last May in Hawaii, Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara said, during a press conference with his counterparts from the United States, Australia and the Philippines, that an early settlement of the RAA will “further activate and vitalise the bilateral joint exercise and training of the Philippines and Japan military units and expected to contribute to the reinforcement cooperation — of the cooperation among the four nations.”

The Philippines has been working with three of its closest security partners—the United States, Australia and Japan — amid heightened tensions with China in the West Philippine Sea.

Both the Philippines and Japan have territorial disputes with China, with Manila facing Beijing’s excessive claims on almost the entire South China Sea. Tokyo is dealing with China’s repeated incursions into the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed in late 2023 to start official talks on the agreement to strengthen their alliance in the face of China’s increasing aggressiveness in the region.

When asked if China’s aggressive tactics in the West Philippine Sea contributed to the RAA, Marcos said then that it had been “in the works way before that.”

“Of course, the incidents [in the West Philippine Sea] in the past few couple of months have certainly sharpened our focus when it comes to that, but again, that’s one of the things that I’m looking forward to that will have... a very big multiplier effect on our capabilities,” he noted.

Last April, the President said the visiting forces deal between the Philippines and Japan was expected to be completed “very soon.”

“There aren’t really real conflicts in principle. It’s just a question of getting the language down and defining precisely how it’s going to work — the logistical systems and how that’s going to work — but it should not take very much longer,” Marcos said of the RAA during the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines forum held at the Manila Hotel. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN

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Philippines , Teodoro , Japan , agreement , defence


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