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Japan reaffirms commitment to free and open Indo-Pacific

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Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuya Endo has reaffirmed his country’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, as the two countries are set to conclude a historic bilateral defense and security agreement that would allow troop deployment on each other’s soil.

“I’m pleased to see that our Reciprocal Access Agreement negotiation is now close to conclusion,” the ambassador said at the 70th anniversary of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) in his official residence last July 4.

“We look forward to the early conclusion of the RAA negotiations and expect to see further progress in promoting exchanges between the JSDF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.

The RAA, which refers to a bilateral defense and security pact and provides shared military training and military operation, between Japan and the Philippines is expected to be signed at the 2+2 foreign and defense ministerial meeting on July 8.

The Philippines-Japan RAA negotiations began after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to start official talks on a visiting forces deal in the face of Beijing’s growing aggression in the South China Sea.

“Once concluded, the RAA will facilitate mutual visits between our forces to further promote our security cooperation,” Japan’s top diplomat in the Philippines said, noting the current tensions that create a “volatile environment” in the region.

“In this context, the Philippines’ role in maintaining regional stability and security is undoubtedly important,” he said.

Ambassador Endo recalled JSDF’s 70 years of peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief operations; defense equipment and technology transfers; and joint exercises.

“Seventy years ago, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces was established with a solemn oath, vowing to never repeat the tragedies of the past and to serve as a force for peace and independence of the country. Over the course of their service, the JSDF has effectively solidified their role as a key stabilizer in the region,” the ambassador said.

Ambassador Endo also noted JSDF’s changing role amid the expanding security cooperation between Japan and the Philippines.

“Reflecting on the JSDF’s past achievements and present commitments, we envision a future where JSDF forges ahead as a pillar of stability and a beacon of peace in the region,” the ambassador said, citing JSDF’s active participation in peacekeeping operations in Timor Leste and South Sudan, as well as its counter-piracy efforts that helped safeguard maritime routes for trade.

Officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), other Philippine government officials, and members of the diplomatic corps attended the celebration.

AFP chief of staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. was guest of honor and speaker and National Security Adviser Eduardo Manahan Año delivered a congratulatory toast acknowledging JSDF’s longstanding service.

At the event, defense-related Japanese companies showcased their equipment models and distributed informational brochures.

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