PH-US-Japan agreement not aimed at China – DFA

PH-US-Japan agreement not aimed at China – DFA

/ 05:30 AM April 06, 2024

PH-US-Japan agreement not aimed at China–DFA

Joe Biden—REUTERS; Fumio Kishida—REUTERS; President Marcos—MALACAÑANG PHOTO

The forthcoming summit between the Philippines, United States and Japan is “not directed at any country” but is aimed at deepening the existing and strong ties on economic cooperation, maritime security and climate change of the three allies, a foreign affairs official said on Friday.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s meeting with US President Joe Biden and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Minister next week comes amid heightened tensions due to the maritime disputes between the Philippines and China, and between Japan and China.


READ: PH’s trilateral meeting with US, Japan not directed at any country — DFA


Beijing has accused the US of stoking the conflict and allegedly goading the Philippines into making provocations in the South China Sea.

4th US visit

“This trilateral meeting is a natural progression of the three parties’ existing robust, excellent, bilateral cooperation; their enduring friendship and alliance, shared values, shared interests, and shared respect of the three parties for the rules-based international order,” said Hans Mohaiman Siriban, the acting foreign affairs deputy undersecretary for bilateral relations.

From April 10 to April 14, Marcos will be in Washington for the historic meeting with Biden and Kishida as the three leaders take initial steps toward formalizing the trilateral cooperation between their countries. The trilateral summit is scheduled for April 12.

Over the past decades, the United States has increased its sanctions against China due to concerns on national security and human rights.

READ: DFA: World awaits PH-Japan-US conference

For its part, Japan has a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.


Siriban said during a briefing on Mr. Marcos’ fourth visit to the United States since he took office in 2022 that the “primary focus” of the discussions between the three leaders would be economic cooperation.

Still, he was asked whether this summit was really “poking the bear,” or a deliberate move to antagonize Beijing.

“As we have said on many occasions, this trilateral cooperation is not directed at any country. It is really a deepening of existing strong bilateral alliances that we’ve had,” he replied. “So, it really is not [poking the bear]. There’s a lot of focus on economic cooperation.”

“But the security environment will also have to be taken into consideration,” Siriban quickly added. “Because for economic resilience and economic growth to happen, we also have to take into account the peace and security of the region. And in this aspect, the trilateral cooperation also hopes to enhance cooperation in this respect.”

‘Turning point in history’

He stressed that the trilateral leaders’ summit also showed that the Philippines “stands for the preservation of the international rules-based order” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the arbitral tribunal ruling.

“And we appreciate the support that Japan and the US and many other countries have shown for our position. So, I think the trilateral summit reinforces the importance of keeping peace and stability in the region and to always resolve the issues through dialogue and diplomacy,” Siriban said.

In a group interview in Tokyo on Friday, Kishida said he wanted to cooperate with South Korea and the Philippines, and even engage with North Korea to promote regional security.

“The current security environment is tough and complex, and we are at a turning point in history,” Kishida said. “Cooperation between Japan and the United States and like-minded countries is a very important issue,” he added.

Crucial for rule of law

Japan and its allies are looking for ways to counter China’s growing influence in Asia and deter it from resorting to military action to resolve its disputes in the region.

The state visit to Washington, the first by a Japanese leader in nine years, is meant to showcase their close security and economic ties, with Kishida and Biden expected to discuss cooperation on defense equipment and a possible upgrade in the US military command structure in Japan.

“Close cooperation between Japan, the US, and the Philippines is crucial for a free and open order based on the rule of law and for economic prosperity in the region,” Kishida said.

Japan last year delivered four air defense radars to the Philippines and is negotiating a reciprocal access agreement with Manila that would make it easier for Japanese troops to train in the country.

Siriban said the Philippines was looking at an “expanded platform” with the US and Japan aimed at enhancing the country’s economic resilience and security, “especially in the areas of strategic and critical infrastructure.”

Joint vision statement

The trilateral leaders’ summit is also expected to boost the three nations’ cooperation on climate change and clean, renewable energy sources, supply chains and the critical minerals and semiconductor industries.

The President will also hold a bilateral meeting with Biden in the White House on economic security, clean energy and people-to-people ties. Marcos will also meet with businessmen during his visit.

Siriban said discussions between Marcos, Biden and Kishida will likely cover developments in the South China Sea maritime dispute and include recent incidents in the West Philippine Sea in their joint vision statement at the end of the meeting.

“Of course, the joint vision statement is still under discussion, but we can expect an alignment of views among the three countries on the recent incidents in the West Philippine Sea. Of course, we will continue to call on peace and stability, and that the recent incidents be resolved in a peaceful and diplomatic manner,” he said.

Integrated package

Siriban expressed optimism that once finalized, the trilateral cooperation would “help capacitate the Philippines” through increased training in maritime security, capacity-building and cooperation in equipment.

The prospective trilateral cooperation will complement existing mechanisms in the Indo-Pacific, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he added.

“It really is an integrated package, an integrated suite of projects that will help enhance our capability to be interoperable with our partners, with our allies. That is our hope, that this will help promote a more conducive environment to allow our people to travel and do their livelihoods in our seas,” he said.

In his meeting with new Japanese Ambassador to Manila Endo Kazuya on Thursday in Malacañang, the President said the forthcoming trilateral deal will be a “building block” for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

The President also stressed the need to “respond to the actual situation on the ground.”

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“As I say this, keep the South China Sea an area as part of the world where there is freedom of navigation and trade. That’s all we wish for, and so we are happy that once we try to do that, we have you as part of it,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM REUTERS

TAGS: China, Japan, US

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