Leaders agree on PH-Japan exercises within Indo-Pacific in 2025

Leaders agree on PH-Japan exercises within Indo-Pacific in 2025

/ 10:31 PM April 12, 2024

Marcos: PH-US-Japan summit 'a natural progression' of deeper ties

President Joe Biden, center, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., left, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, right, attend a trilateral meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States — To improve interoperability between the three countries and ensure maritime security in the Indo-Pacific Region, the Philippines, the United States (US), and Japan have agreed to start joint maritime exercises in 2025.

This development came after the trilateral summit between the three countries on Thursday afternoon, which was attended by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., US President Joe Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio.


READ: Biden reiterates: Any attack on PH aircraft, ship in SCS will invoke MDT 


In the joint statement released Thursday night (Eastern time), the three leaders also announced that a trilateral dialogue to enhance coordination would also be implemented.

“Within the next year, our coast guards also plan to conduct an at-sea trilateral exercise and other maritime activities in the Indo-Pacific to improve interoperability and advance maritime security and safety. We announce the establishment of a trilateral maritime dialogue to enhance coordination and collective responses to promote maritime cooperation,” the leaders said.

“We are concerned about illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. We support the ability of Filipino and Japanese fisherfolk to pursue their traditional livelihoods. To build regional capacity and address threats posed by transnational crime, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and other maritime challenges, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States plan to expand our efforts to provide maritime law enforcement training and support to partner countries in the region,” they added.

Furthermore, all three countries also called on China to stop using its Coast Guard in a coercive manner, reminding the Asian superpower that ownership of several areas in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) have been settled in 2016.

READ: US, Japan, PH to China: Stop ‘coercive use’ of coast guard in SCS

One particular area that was mentioned is the Second Thomas Shoal or the Ayungin Shoal, which China says it owns.  According to the three leaders, this issue has already been settled — with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) invalidating China’s nine-dash line territorial claim.


“We express our serious concerns about the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) dangerous and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. We are also concerned by the militarization of reclaimed features and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea. We steadfastly oppose the dangerous and coercive use of Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, as well as efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation,” the leaders said.

“We reiterate serious concern over the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal, which constitute dangerous and destabilizing conduct. The final and legally binding July 12, 2016 Arbitral Tribunal determined that this feature lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and we call on the PRC to abide by the ruling,” they added.

Ayungin Shoal, which sits around 315 kilometers from the tip of Palawan, is well within the West Philippine Sea, being inside the 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone of the country.

However, China believes the Philippines is illegally occupying the shoal by deliberately running Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre on it in 1999. China also claimed that a former Philippine president promised to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin, but President Marcos said he is not aware of such a deal.

READ: China claims PH has yet to remove BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal as promised 

But aside from the WPS issue, the three leaders also discussed other issues hurled against China, like its claim over Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands and its long-time insistence on Taiwan being a mere province of the mainland.

“We express our serious concerns regarding the situation in the East China Sea, and reiterate our strong opposition to any attempts by the PRC to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion in the East China Sea, including through actions that seek to undermine Japan’s longstanding and peaceful administration of the Senkaku Islands,” they said.

“We affirm the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of global security and prosperity, recognize that there is no change in our basic positions on Taiwan, and call for a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” they added.

The trilateral meeting between the three countries comes at a time when tensions are high over the South China Sea, due to conflicting claims between the Philippines and China.

Over the past few months, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has regularly complained about the Chinese Coast Guard’s harassment of local vessels assisting resupply missions to troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal.

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During the start of the meeting, Biden also reiterated that any attack on a Philippine aircraft, vessel, or armed force in the South China Sea will trigger the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) — an agreement requiring both nations to send support if another party makes a military attack.

TAGS: Japan, trilateral summit, US

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