Japan Philippines United for China; Coast Guard & Build Train System Offered

Bullet Train Technology Japan

To Counter China, Japan and Philippines Will Bolster Maritime Cooperation

TOKYO — In a telling sign of how China's rise has helped turn former wartime foes into allies, Japan and the Philippines agreed on Thursday to cooperate more closely on maritime security.

During talks in Manila, the foreign ministers of Japan and the Philippines proclaimed their nations to be strategic partners that would collaborate more in resolving their separate territorial disputes with China, news reports said. They also expressed "mutual concern" over increasingly assertive claims by China that have embroiled both nations, according to Kyodo News.

Japan is in a tense showdown over islands in the East China Sea, while the Philippines has wrangled with China over control of islands and fishing grounds in the South China Sea. The two nations agreed to exchange information and discuss each other's strategies for responding to China, the ministers were quoted as saying. The Philippine minister, Albert del Rosario, said the discussion included a request by his country for 10 new patrol ships from Japan to strengthen the Filipino coast guard.

His Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, was appointed last month by Japan's new conservative Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. The decision to have Mr. Kishida visit the Philippines for his first trip was seen as a symbolic gesture by Mr. Abe, who has vowed to strengthen security ties with other democracies in the region in an effort to offset China's growing military and political clout.

Mr. Abe has also said he wants to work more closely with the United States and Australia to help bolster the capacity of less-developed nations like the Philippines to stand up to China. While long-pacifist Japan has restricted its aid to mostly nonmilitary purposes, like building up coast guards, its leaders have recently begun loosening some of the self-imposed restrictions. Japan is now in talks about providing training to submarine crews from Vietnam, and last year it gave its first limited military aid to East Timor and Cambodia.

Japan has long supplied development aid in the region, but it has operated carefully to avoid stirring bitter memories of its militarism during World War II, when its forces swept across much of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, then emerging from its colonial relationship with the United States. However, in recent years Japan's military has slowly raised its profile by joining regional training exercises and holding its first bilateral military maneuvers with Australia and India.

The building of regional military ties represents a significant strategic departure for the country, which after World War II relied for its defense on the United States and the roughly 50,000 military personnel it bases in Japan. For its part, China has pointed to the moves as proof of a resurgent militarism in Japan, which it says is swinging to the right.

News reports said Mr. del Rosario, the Philippine minister, called China's territorial claims in the South China Sea a threat to regional stability.

"We also need to be able to address the possibility that the freedom of navigation would be adversely affected," he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

The Japanese foreign minister agreed.

"As the strategic environment is changing, it is necessary for us as foreign ministers to share recognition of the situation," Mr. Kishida said after the talks, according to Kyodo News. Kyodo said that Mr. Kishida also offered development loans to help build a light-rail system and a new airport. (http://nyti.ms/13lTggC)

New York Times 

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