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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Editorial: Promoting cooperation among Japan, Philippines, U.S. vital to Asian stability

To restrain China’s self-righteous maritime advances while properly dealing with the threat from North Korea, it is indispensable for Japan, the United States and Southeast Asian nations to strategically cooperate with one another.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Tokyo, and they agreed to exert stronger pressure on North Korea, such as strictly implementing resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on that country.


Duterte also told Abe he is calling on all the countries involved to “sit down at the table again.” Diplomatic and military pressure on the North must be based on a hard look at eventually resolving the problem through dialogue.


During the talks, the two leaders also agreed to reinforce a strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines, by which our country would steadily carry out assistance measures worth about ¥1 trillion.


The prime minister emphasized his policy of promoting cooperation between Japan and the Philippines to address various problems as matters of common concern for the two nations, including North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, stability in the East and South China seas and responses to terrorism.


Duterte will chair a summit meeting related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in mid-November. U.S. President Donald Trump is also scheduled to pay a round of visits to Asian countries for the first time. It was significant for Abe and Duterte to confirm the importance of Japan-Philippines cooperation prior to these events.


Assist other nations


The U.S.-Philippine relationship worsened after former U.S. President Barack Obama condemned Duterte’s iron-fisted clampdown on drugs. The Trump administration has cooperated with the Philippines to uproot extremists, thereby making gradual progress toward improving bilateral relations.


Stability in the U.S.-Philippine alliance benefits Japan, too. The prime minister needs to serve as a bridge for the United States and the Philippines by utilizing his nearly five years of diplomatic experience in the form of meetings with other top leaders.


The focus of the ASEAN-related summit meeting is on how China’s unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force should be assessed, such as its endeavor to create military footholds in the South China Sea. The question is whether a chairman’s statement to be issued at the meeting will clearly express “concerns” about China’s moves.


The prime minister and Duterte discussed how to respond to China’s attempt to set up military footholds in the sea, but they failed to arrive at a conclusion.


The Philippines has, in effect, postponed dealing with a ruling handed down by a court of arbitration to reject China’s claim to sovereignty rights in the sea in July last year. This has been viewed as a favor in return for China’s economic assistance. However, the South China Sea is an important sea lane, and the issue of securing the freedom of navigation is not solely limited to the countries involved in the dispute.


Although China and the ASEAN nations have agreed on the framework for a code of conduct aimed at preventing conflicts in the South China Sea, it remains ambiguous whether the code of conduct would be legally binding. A factor behind this is China’s strong military and economic strength.


In October, the U.S. administration conducted Freedom of Navigation Operation in the South China Sea, deploying a warship there. Japan will give the Philippines two training planes from the Maritime Self-Defense Force without charging a fee, thereby helping improve the latter nation’s security capability. Japan and the United States should continue to assist Southeast Asian nations both militarily and economically.

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