The Philippines and Japan are set to hold their first-ever joint air force exercises next week as the two countries deepen military ties amid heightened tensions with China. More cooperation between the Philippines and Japan will please the Biden administration since building alliances is key to its anti-China policies.
“As a strategic partner and friend of the Philippines, we hope that our bilateral training will contribute to further strengthen the cooperation between our two Air Forces,” a Japanese military official said in a statement released by Japan’s embassy in Manila.
The drills will involve a Japanese C-130, its crew, and Philippine airmen that will simulate a disaster relief aid delivery. The exercises are on a small scale, but they are significant since both countries are involved in maritime disputes with China, and both are backed by the US.
The US holds mutual defense treaties with Japan and the Philippines and has vowed to intervene if their disputes with China turn violent. For the Philippines, the dispute is over the waters of the South China Sea and the rocks and reefs in those waters. For Japan, the dispute is over the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
Tensions were high recently when the Philippines accused China of massing a “maritime militia” near a disputed reef in the South China Sea, although Beijing insisted the vessels were fishing boats. Amid the stand-off, the Biden administration reminded China that the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty covers attacks on Philippine vessels in the South China Sea.
In one of his first phone calls as Pentagon chief, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reaffirmed that Article V of the US mutual defense treaty with Japan applies to the Senkakus, or the Diaoyus as they are known in China.