Philippines considering trilateral defense pact with U.S. and Japan

- International - February 13, 2023
The president of the Philippines said there is no reason not to sign an agreement on reciprocal troop visits with Japan, but we must be careful not to provoke other countries.
The president of the Philippines said there is no reason not to sign an agreement on reciprocal troop visits with Japan, but we must be careful not to provoke other countries.

Philippine President Marcos Jr. said there was no reason for the Philippines not to reach an agreement on reciprocal troop visits with Japan, but he had to proceed carefully not to be seen as provocative.

Marcos Jr. told the media on Sunday (Feb. 12, 2023) before returning to the Philippines from a five-day trip to Japan, “If you can help the Philippines protect our fishermen, protect our marine areas and territorial waters, I don’t. I don’t think we can achieve the goal of a force.” What is wrong with the mutual visit agreement?

The Philippine military on Monday accused a Chinese Coast Guard vessel of using a military laser on a Philippine vessel carrying supplies in the Ayungin Shoal (internationally known as Second Thomas Shoal) on Feb. 6, briefly blinding the crew. The Philippine defense secretary said the Chinese Coast Guard vessel had carried out “offensive and unsafe” actions.

Beijing: calls the reef the Second Thomas Shoal, which China claims. In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday that the Philippine Coast Guard vessel entered the waters without China’s permission on the day of the incident. The Philippine side avoided escalating the dispute and complicating the situation.

In November 2021, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel fired high-pressure water cannons at a Filipino vessel heading for the same island to provide supplies to stop it, triggering condemnation by the Philippines “in the strongest possible terms.”

For a long time, China has been the greatest external threat to the territorial waters of the Philippines and its fishermen. However, faced with an economically, politically, and militarily powerful China, the Philippines has been very cautious in dealing with China over the issue of sovereignty in the South China Sea.

During a visit to Beijing in early January, Marcos told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the Philippines has an “independent” foreign policy and that China is the Philippines’ strongest partner in economic recovery after the pandemic. His words earned China a pledge to invest $22.8 billion in the country and import more Philippine fruit, helping to reduce the trade deficit between the Philippines and China.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right) and Marcos attend a news conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Tokyo on Thursday. | KYODO

Marcos, however, is moving more towards the United States and Japan on security issues.

Days before his trip to Japan, he signed an agreement with visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to increase the number of Philippine military bases the U.S. military can use from the current five to nine, including those with Taiwan understanding that the conflict in the Taiwan Strait will involve the Philippines.

“If we look at the situation in the region, especially the tensions in the Taiwan Strait, we can see that because of our geographical location, it is hard to imagine that the Philippines would not intervene.”

During his visit to Japan, Marcos Jr. signed a disaster relief agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Officials hope the agreement will facilitate the creation of a broader legal framework for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in the future to deploy and provide more military training and humanitarian and disaster relief to the Philippines.

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