PH, Japan affirm support for freedom of navigation in South China Sea
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines and Japan affirmed commitment to upholding freedom of navigation in the South China Sea at the first meeting of new Japanese defense minister Nobuo Kishi and his Philippine counterpart, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday (Oct. 23).
“We call on concerned parties to desist from any action and activity that contravenes the Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as these generate tension, mistrust and uncertainty, and threatens regional peace and stability,” Lorenzana was quoted as saying in a statement.
The two defense chiefs met for the first time since Kishi’s appointment in September through a video teleconference.
Lorenzana’s meeting with Kishi came a day after the first official visit of Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds to Manila. Australia also reiterated the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely.
Department of National Defense spokesperson, Director Arsenio Andolong, said Lorenzana was keen on reinforcing existing strategic partnership with Japan despite the already close relationship between Manila and Tokyo.
Lorenzana conveyed the commitment of the DND to a stronger strategic partnership with Japan. He also invited Kishi to visit Manila when travel restrictions ease.
The two defense leaders discussed various aspects of security ties between their countries, including capacity-building, regional security cooperation and COVID-19 response, according to Andolong.
They also agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation on technology transfer.
In 2019, the Philippines and Japan held an inaugural defense industry forum, which sought to explore defense equipment cooperation between the two countries.
The two countries signed a defense agreement in 2016 that would allow the transfer of defense equipment and technology from Japan to the Philippines as part of their growing security partnership amid China’s military buildup and expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea.
Last August, Japan concluded its first major defense equipment sale to the Philippines for fixed and mobile air surveillance radars worth P5.5 billion.