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Philippines and Japan Strengthen Security Ties with New Agreement

The Philippines and Japan have taken a big step in their security relationship. They signed a new deal that allows their military forces to enter each other’s countries more easily. This comes at a time when there are growing concerns in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA)

What is the RAA?

  • It’s a deal that makes it easier for military forces from both countries to visit each other.
  • It helps with military cooperation by simplifying the entry of foreign personnel and equipment.

Signing of the Agreement

  • Philippine defense minister Gilberto Teodoro and Japanese foreign minister Yoko Kamikawa signed the deal.
  • The signing happened in Manila, with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. watching.

Status of the Agreement

  • This is Japan’s first such agreement in Asia.
  • It will start working after both countries’ lawmakers approve it.

Why This Agreement Matters

Countering Chinese Influence

  • A Japanese military presence in the Philippines could help balance China’s influence in the South China Sea.
  • China claims large parts of the South China Sea, which conflicts with claims of several Southeast Asian countries.

Strengthening Alliances

  • Both the Philippines and Japan are close allies of the United States.
  • They have taken strong positions against what they see as aggressive behavior by Chinese ships in disputed waters.

Background of Regional Tensions

South China Sea Dispute

  • In 2016, an international court ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea had no legal basis.
  • China rejected this ruling.

East China Sea Dispute

  • Japan has its own separate dispute with China in the East China Sea.

Japan’s Changing Defense Posture

Military Build-up

  • In December 2023, Japan announced its biggest military increase since World War Two.
  • This marks a shift from Japan’s post-war pacifist stance.

Reasons for Change

  • Japan is worried about China’s actions, including:
    1. Pressure on Taiwan
    2. Issues with freedom of navigation
    3. Trade disputes

Philippines-Japan Cooperation

Support in Maritime Disputes

  • Japan has backed the Philippines’ position in the South China Sea.
  • Japan has expressed serious concern over China’s actions that have damaged Philippine ships and injured Filipino sailors.

Military Aid

  • Japan will provide coastal surveillance radars to the Philippines.
  • This is part of Japan’s Official Security Assistance program to help partner countries improve their defense capabilities.

Broader Context of Military Agreements

Philippines’ Other Agreements

  • The Philippines has Visiting Forces Agreements (VFA) with the United States and Australia.

Japan’s Similar Agreements

  • Japan has RAA deals with Australia and Britain.
  • It’s working on a similar agreement with France.
  • Japan hosts the largest number of U.S. forces outside of the United States.

Limitations and Future Prospects

Limits on Japanese Military Aid

  • Japan has a self-imposed ban on exporting lethal equipment.
  • This limits the scope of military aid Japan can provide.

Important Takeaways for all competitive exams:

  • Philippines Capital: Manila;
  • Philippines Currency: Philippine peso;
  • President of the Philippines: Bongbong Marcos;
  • Japan Capital: Tokyo;
  • Japan Prime Minister: Fumio Kishida;
  • Japan Currency: Japanese yen.

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