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Japanese troops now allowed in PH as new defense pact signed

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By Veronica Uy

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, the Philippines and Japan may now deploy troops on each other’s soil after Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Yoko Kamikawa on Monday signed the historic Japan-Philippines Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA).

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who witnessed the signing of the RAA, described it as “critically important” and expressed his desire to further deepen bilateral relations and Japan-U.S.-Philippines trilateral cooperation.

The Japan-Philippines RAA, which was negotiated for about seven months, is an agreement that establishes procedures for joint activities conducted by forces of Japan and the Philippines while the force of one country is visiting the other country. The defense and security pact also defines a legal status of the visiting force.

The Philippines is the third country with which Japan signed the RAA, following Australia and the United Kingdom, said the Japanese embassy in Manila.

“As the security environment in the region becomes increasingly severe, the signing of this important security-related agreement with the Philippines, a strategic partner located at a strategic juncture on the sea lanes and sharing fundamental values and principles with Japan, will further promote security and defense cooperation between the two countries and firmly support peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” according to a briefer sent out by the Japanese embassy in Manila.

The Japan-Philippines RAA is expected to facilitate the implementation of joint exercises, disaster relief, and other cooperation activities, as well as improve interoperability between the forces of the two countries in these activities.

At the courtesy call to the President before the RAA signing, Minister Kamikawa said the RAA signing was “a great achievement.”

President Marcos and the Japanese officials exchanged views on regional affairs and response to global issues such as the West Philippine Sea, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, and confirmed that the two countries would work together more closely.

Kamikawa said “Japan would like to reinforce coordination with the Philippines under the leadership of President Marcos to maintain and strengthen the free and open international order based on the rule of law.”

The Japanese foreign minister also “expressed her desire to enhance regional deterrence through the transfer of defense equipment and Official Security Assistance (OSA) and to strengthen cooperation in economic security.”

Minister Kamikawa said Japan would continue to support the Philippines’ infrastructure development. She also expressed her expectation for strengthening bilateral trade and investment ties.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara also attended the signing of the agreement between the two allies and former wartime enemies almost seven decades after the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.

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