Japan strengthens South China Sea ties with the Philippines and Vietnam
(13 March 2015)
Japan has entered into agreements to assist the Philippines and Vietnam with maritime patrolling and naval exercises. The move by Japan to provide regional naval assistance follows a speech in May 2014 by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who promised to use Japanese influence to maintain freedom of navigation throughout the region.
The agreement with the Philippines is part of a security agreement signed in Tokyo in January 2015, which included regular defence talks, exchanges of senior officials, planned joint naval exercises, as well as 10 coastguard vessels to be built by Japan for the Philippines. Colonel Restituto Padilla, spokesperson for the Philippine armed forces, noted in a statement that it would be “natural for Japan and the Philippines to join forces to help each other secure these sea lanes.” Japan has also agreed to provide six used navy patrol boats for Vietnam as well as advice on treating decompression illness, which comes as Vietnam acquires submarines from Russia.
Abe’s speech outlined Japanese concerns with Chinese efforts to dominate the South China Sea shipping routes, which could jeopardize Japan’s shipping trade. While Japan has not claimed territories in the South China Sea, it does dispute Chinese possession of islands in the East China Sea. Japanese sources indicated that assisting the Philippines and Vietnam with naval security was a form of “calibrated escalation” in the region, according to Reuters.
Testing Beijing, Japan eyes growing role in South China Sea security, 10 March 2015, by Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo for Reuters, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/10/us-japan-southchinasea-idUSKBN0M62B920150310
Japan Gets Involved In South China Sea Territorial Dispute: Tokyo Offers Maritime Support To Philippines, Vietnam, by Michelle FlorCruz for International Business Times, 11 March 2015, http://www.ibtimes.com/japan-gets-involved-south-china-sea-territorial-dispute-tokyo-offers-maritime-support-1844102