MANILA — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in the Philippines on Friday for a two-day official visit aimed at boosting defense and security ties at a time of heightened tension in Philippines-China relations.
Kishida will meet President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the presidential palace to discuss a range of issues, including the South China Sea, where Manila and Beijing have had several confrontations.
“Among the specific issues to be discussed are the West Philippine Sea, trade and investment, and Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA),” Marcos’ office said ahead of Kishida’s visit.
“They will also exchange views on major regional, international, and United Nations issues affecting the region and the world.”
Japan does not have any claim to the waters, but has a separate maritime dispute with China in the East China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea and its growing military presence there has fuelled concern in Japan and the West, with the United States holding regular air and naval patrols to ensure freedom of navigation.
Ahead of the visit, the Japan defence ministry announced the delivery of the first air surveillance radar system to the Philippine military as part of a 2020 contract between the Philippines‘ defence department and Mitsubishi Electric Corp.
In February, Marcos and Kishida agreed in Tokyo that their militaries would cooperate in disaster relief, an agreement seen as a step towards a broader pact that could allow the countries to deploy forces on each other’s soil.
Following that meeting, Marcos said he saw no reason why the Philippines should not have a troop pact with Japan if it would boost maritime security.
On Saturday, Kishida will speak before the Philippine Congress.
– Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan