Tokyo's landmark shift welcome: Philippines

Philippine's Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario attends the 48th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Australia Ministerial Meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 5, 2015.
Philippine's Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario attends the 48th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Australia Ministerial Meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 5, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Japan's landmark defence policy shift will "contribute further to shared goals of greater peace, stability, and mutual prosperity in the international community", the Philippines has said.

"We look forward to efforts that strengthen our strategic partnership with Japan," Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said in a statement yesterday.

Defence Minister Voltaire Gazmin echoed the sentiment. He said: "We welcome the passage of measures that will enable Japan to play a more active role in promoting regional peace and security."

Tokyo passed two security laws early yesterday morning that would allow its military to go to the aid of allies in any conflict that also poses a threat to Japan.

Political analyst Jose Antonio Custodio, a former US Navy consultant, said the law allowing Japan to send troops to fight overseas to defend its allies "will strengthen Philippine resolve to defend its territories in the South China Sea". He said the Philippines can expect more military hardware from Japan, including P-3C anti-submarine reconnaissance planes and radar kits. "But what is much more important is Japanese presence (in the South China Sea). There will be a tripwire, a line that will bring everybody in once China crosses it."

TRIPWIRE IN PLACE

There will be a tripwire, a line that will bring everybody in once China crosses it.

POLITICAL ANALYST JOSE ANTONIO CUSTODIO

The Philippines and China are locked in a bitter dispute over their conflicting claims in the South China Sea. China claims 90 per cent of this resource-rich region, citing a tongue-shaped "nine-dash line" drawn on maps introduced in the 1940s by the then Kuomintang government.

The Philippines insists this line encroaches on its exclusive economic zone that stretches 200 nautical miles from its shores. It has filed a case against China before an international tribunal to assert this claim. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims with China's.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed in June to open talks on a Visiting Forces Agreement that will allow Japan to use military bases in the Philippines to extend its range of operation into the South China Sea.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2015, with the headline 'Tokyo's landmark shift welcome: Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe