TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr are expected to sign key deals on Thursday to bolster their defense ties as Asia struggles over China’s growing influence.
Marcos is visiting Japan shortly after he and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin struck deals to give the US greater access to Philippine military bases in a bid to control China’s territorial ambitions.
A defense agreement, which is one of the key deals to be signed when Marcos and Kishida meet later Thursday, would allow Japanese troops to take part in more training exercises and respond to natural disasters in the Philippines.
This could lead to similar agreements with other Southeast Asian countries.
The two island nations held their first “2+2” security talks between their defense and foreign ministers last year and agreed to strengthen their defense ties.
Kishida’s government enacted key security and defense upgrades in December, including a counterattack capability that breaks with Japan’s post-war principle of pure self-defense, while doubling its defense spending by five years.
Under the new strategy, Japan will also use its foreign aid to help poorer countries build maritime security and other security capabilities. It aims to thwart China’s growing regional influence.
On Thursday, Kishida is expected to announce economic aid to improve the Philippines’ infrastructure, disaster preparedness and maritime security capabilities.
The new agreement, which is expected to be signed with the Philippines, will allow Japan to deploy its armed forces in humanitarian missions and disaster relief efforts in the Philippines, an arrangement that Japan hopes to expand to include cooperation in defense in the future, experts say.
“With regional stability and sea lanes in mind and deterring China’s maritime assertiveness, deepening cooperation with the Philippines is crucial for Japan’s and the United States’ security,” Heigo Sato said. professor at Takushoku University and defense and security expert. “Access to bases in the Philippines would expand the strategic options of the Japanese-American alliance” in the event of an emergency in Taiwan.
Japan has expanded its military cooperation beyond its only ally, the United States, in recent years, forging close ties with Australia and other countries in Asia-Pacific and Europe.
Japan signed a mutual access agreement with Australia a year ago and also with Britain last month, removing obstacles to the conduct of joint military exercises by the two countries.
“My bilateral visit to Japan is crucial,” Marcos told a press conference in Manila on Wednesday, before leaving for Japan, which he describes as “in many ways like-minded and forward-looking. ‘future than us, and the most reliable at the time’. of crisis and prosperity. ” mention. “
“Forging closer political ties, enhanced defense and security cooperation and enduring economic partnerships with key countries in the region in a challenging global environment are part of a broader foreign policy agenda.
He said the main agendas of his talks with Kishida would include defense and security, as well as agriculture, renewable energy, digital transformation and infrastructure development.
Marcos was supposed to meet Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako before his talks with Kishida. He will also participate in talks with trade and business officials and leaders from both sides before returning home on Sunday.
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