Philippines, Japan to hold fresh naval drills

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines and Japan will hold fresh joint naval drills this month, the Filipino military said Tuesday, as the World War II foes swiftly ramp up security ties while China develops islands in disputed waters.

The June 22-26 joint manoeuvres with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force would be only the second ever, after an unprecedented one-day exercise in the flashpoint South China Sea last month, Philippine navy spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

He would not say where the new exercises would be held or which ships would take part.

But Japanese media, quoting unnmamed official sources, suggested the second manoeuvres will also take place on the South China Sea.

On May 12, two Japanese destroyers and one of the Philippines' newest warships held historic manoeuvres less than 300km from the Philippine-claimed Scarborough Shoal, which is now under Chinese control.

"This navy-to-navy engagement envisions to share new tactics, techniques and procedures as well as best practices to further maritime operations," Arevalo said, referring to the planned drills.

These will involve "maritime domain awareness", search and rescue, and disaster response, he said.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in Tokyo last week that the two governments would start negotiations for the transfer of defence technology and equipment.

The agreement may include the export of Japanese hardware to the Philippines, including anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft and radar technology.

The two leaders also expressed "serious concern" over China's construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea, which they said violated a 2002 regional agreement.

Aquino, who was making a state visit to Tokyo, also drew parallels between China's recent actions and Nazi Germany's creeping invasion of Europe just before World War II.

Aquino is one of China's most outspoken critics in the region. His government has asked a United Nations-backed tribunal to rule on its territorial disputes with China.

China's claim over almost the entire South China Sea overlaps with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

China and Japan are separately embroiled in a longstanding dispute over a Japan-controlled island chain in the East China Sea.

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