MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his Japanese countrpart, Defense Minister General Nakatani, renewed vows to strengthen cooperation maritime security at a time when China's reclamation in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) raises concern among ASEAN countries. (READ: ASEAN ministers concerned over China reclamation)
"The two ministers particularly briefed each other on and acknowledged the current situation of South China Sea and East China Sea," read a joint statement released on Friday, January 30. (READ: Photos show massive reclamation in West PH Sea)
"Both Ministers shared the view that any dispute should be settled peacefully, without use of force or coercion, in accordance with basic principles of international law," the statement added.
The two ministers signed the “Memorandum on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges between the Ministry of Defense of Japan and the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines” after a meeting in Tokyo from January 29-31.
Aside from maritime security, the two defense ministers agrred to strengthen cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) and defense equipment and technology.
Both Japan and the Philippine are dealing with an aggressive China in the East China Sea and South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), respectively. (READ: Japan vows to help PH amid China sea row)
The Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) helped the Philippines in the relief operations in the aftemath of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). In 2014, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) also participated as an observer in a Philippine-US Joint Exercise. (READ: PH, Japan, US conduct naval exercises off West PH Sea)
The Tokyo meeting also happened after Manila warned fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a minister's retreat in Malaysia that the 10-country grouping's credibility was at stake unless it dealt strongly with the "critical issue in our own backyard."
Manila's push resulted in a statement that tackled land reclamation in disputed waters although there's no mention of specific countries. "The retreat shared the concern raised by some foreign ministers on land reclamation in the South China Sea," the statement read.
At the meeting, both Ministers concurred with the conduct of the following major cooperation and exchanges among others: