Japan wants more war games
The chief of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces on Friday met with the Philippines’ top military officials to discuss ways to strengthen the military relationship between the two countries.
Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano paid a courtesy call on Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri and led in the discussion of improving their relationship based on the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) on defense cooperation and exchanges.
“We focused on how we can further strengthen the relationship, what should be our next steps,” said Iriberri in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo on Friday.
In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, where China is conducting massive reclamation activities, was only slightly touched in the discussion.
Changing status quo
“On regional security issues, he mentioned that China is attempting to change the status quo in the region with its reclamation activities,” the DND said.
In response, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin “pointed out that stronger defense relations between the two countries will promote security and stability in the region.”
Kawano acknowledged that the MOU between Japan and the Philippines has served as a framework for increasing high-level exchanges between the two countries.
The Japanese military official stressed the importance of capacity-building cooperation with the Philippines, especially on humanitarian assistance and disaster response and the need to share information to address common security issues.
The DND said Kawano expressed interest in conducting more exercises with the country, particularly amphibious landing exercises and amphibious operations.
Kawano also assured the defense officials that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be pushing for a national security legislation which could allow the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to expand activities with the Philippines.
Gazmin welcomed Kawano’s interest in more naval exercises with the Philippines, adding that a visiting forces agreement with Japan will be needed with regard to conducting such activities.
The DND has expressed concern over China’s moves to build search and rescue facilities on its reclaimed areas in the South China Sea, saying this may be the “tipping point of an irreversible crisis.”
A DND official also questioned why China is constructing such facilities in the disputed territory.
“Maybe we should ask, ‘For whom are those search and rescue facilities for? Is it for our ships and installations that they are threatening to destroy?’” said DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez.
The official issued the statement after Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua announced that China is planning to build facilities on reclaimed reefs to support freedom of navigation, search and rescue efforts, and scientific research.
Several countries claim ownership of the South China Sea, with China claiming about 90 percent. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing territorial claims.
Massive island building
However, China is conducting a massive land reclamation on seven reefs also being claimed by the Philippines: Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi), Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Kennan (Chigua), Mabini (Johnson South), Burgos (Gaven), and Calderon (Cuarteron) Reefs.
China is reportedly building artificial islands with airstrips, radar systems and military barracks, which has raised concerns among the international community.
The Philippines has maintained that the reclamation violates the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
“This is what we’ve been warning the international community about. It has become all too evident that the Chinese leadership had no intention of honoring its commitment to the Declaration of Conduct all along,” Galvez said.
“They’ve said one thing and have done another,” he said.
He maintained that “regardless of what supposedly good details the Chinese leadership informs the peace-focused and rules-based international community, they illegally and blatantly continue with their aggression.”
“These are mere elements of their island building militarization which needs to stop and be dismantled,” he said.
The DND said China is simply trying to cover its tracks of militarization.
“This is the worst stage of all, this is the militarization stage and it must be stopped. Otherwise it will be the tipping point that will plunge the entire region including the peace-loving Chinese communities into a deeper and irreversible crisis,” Galvez said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine defense chief said the country’s air force and navy will go ahead with a plan to open camps in a bustling free port facing the disputed South China Sea even if a proposed American military presence doesn’t happen. With a report from AP
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