The Philippine government has said it’s working on a pact to strengthen military ties with Japan amid rising tensions in the region, Defense Post reported on Wednesday.
The proposed deal, known as a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), would allow the two nations to deploy troops on each other’s territory. Japan recently finalized a similar agreement with Australia, making Canberra the first nation to be able to deploy troops on Japanese territory besides the US since World War II.
Japan and the Philippines are treaty allies of the US, and both nations have maritime disputes with China over small, uninhabited islands that the US has pledged to defend. The Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are a major source of tensions between Japan and China, while many features of the South China Sea are claimed by both Beijing and Manila.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was recently in the Philippines and told the nation’s congress that the potential military pact would facilitate joint exercises and exchanges between militaries.
“In the South China Sea, bilateral cooperation to protect the freedom of the sea is underway. Through these efforts, let us protect the maritime order, which is governed by laws and rules – not by force,” Kishia said.
The US is encouraging its allies in the Asia Pacific to increase ties as part of its buildup against China. The US and its allies have also stepped up military exercises in the region. For example, two US aircraft carrier strike groups conducted drills with a Japanese destroyer in the Philippine Sea this week, a significant show of force.