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Japan Deepens Military Ties with the Philippines

By Nobuaki Masaki

SNA (Tokyo) — The Republic of the Philippines is seeking military aid from its allies amid rising tensions in the South China Sea.

On May 2, Japan agreed to lease to the Philippines five scouting planes used by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force to train its pilots. Although Japan had originally intended to give away the planes for free, its Public Finance Act, which prohibits the donation of national property, has prevented it from doing so.

Japan even considered changing its own laws to allow the transfer of the planes, but with pro-Japanese Philippine President Benigno Aquino III stepping down in June, it felt that it had no time to pursue such an endeavor.

Although Japan’s warships and submarines have recently visited ports in the Philippines — including the helicopter carrier Ise‘s visit in late April — it has never before leased its Self-Defense Forces aircraft to a foreign state.

The Philippines is recently deepening its military alliance with the United States. On March 18, the two countries announced a deal allowing the United States to build facilities across five military bases in the Philippines. The US military was forced to leave its own bases in the Philippines in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the two nations are strengthening their military ties once again amid a lesser sort of Cold War with China.

China has strengthened its influence over the South China Sea in recent years. It has built up an array of artificial islands fortified with military structures over contested rocks and reefs in the region. Although the Philippines is currently challenging China’s claims over territory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Beijing says that it will reject an unfavorable decision by the court. It has claimed that its territorial rights extend to the so-called “Nine-Dash Line,” a Chinese demarcation first published in 1947 which encompasses over 85% of the South China Sea.

It remains to be seen if recent efforts by the United States and its allies can deter any potentially problematic expansion of Chinese military activities.

Nobuaki Masaki is a contributing writer to the Shingetsu News Agency